I saw A Quiet Place Part II in New York City on March 6th, 2020. That’s not really a brag. But, for context, it’s an important detail.
Film junkets are weird. As far as marketing budgets go, it’s often a lot more cost- and time-effective to fly journalists and bloggers from various global markets to a location to interview the cast of a film, rather than pinging the cast around to a dozen different spots around the world. The studio will bus the media pack to a theatre for a screening of the film, then make everyone sign a legal document that more or less says if you talk about the movie before X date several large horse cops will kick you to jail (or something like that). And then comes the interviews, which usually consist of a full day of sitting around while you wait for a precious handful of minutes with a recognisable movie star.
After that, you write up your reviews and interviews and wait for the embargo to lift.
Which is what happened with A Quiet Place Part II.
It’s just that, in this case, the world caved in a week after the press screening took place and it has subsequently taken 14 months for that embargo to lift.
So how on earth do you go about reviewing a film that you saw well over a year ago, on the opposite end of the planet, jet lagged out of your brain, on the other end of a global pandemic?
In a lot of ways, it’s difficult to separate the work aspects of that trip from the very real things that happened around it.
Part II, which acts as both the sequel and prequel to the truly excellent 2018 original, is every bit as gripping and tense as its predecessor.
Picking up not long after the first left off, Part II has Emily Blunt, Millicent Simonds, and Noah Jupe reprising their roles as the Abbott family – sans the guidance of John Krasinski, whose patriarch character Lee was summarily dispatched in Part One.
Forced out of the family home, Evelyn (Blunt), Regan (Simonds), Marcus (Jupe), and Evelyn’s newborn venture beyond the sand path and into a world that has been overrun by an invading alien race that detects even the slightest human noise and kills wantonly. Armed with the newly-found weapon of deaf daughter Regan’s malfunctioning cochlear implant – it emits a high-frequency screech that renders the aliens vulnerable – the family traverses the abandoned ruins of society in search of survivors and prosperity.
Adding the effortlessly excellent Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou to the cast allows the story to branch out beyond the claustrophobic anxiety of its insular former. But it’s the original cast – particularly its junior one – that steals the show.
Millicent Simonds in particular is a towering force. Her turn as Regan is a tangled mess of misplaced teenage confidence and simmering fear, and its her scenes that provide palpable senses of dread and triumph in equal measure. Of particular note is a sequence on an abandoned rail carriage that squeezes the walls of the screen in just as the invisible hand of tension does the viewer’s lungs.
The use of sound – or lack thereof – in Part II is (once again) particularly noteworthy. The silence the film employs has a vastness to it. It’s what makes the occasional burst of sound all the more jarring. It’s the absences that define A Quiet Place Part II, much as they defined everything about covering it.
Gripping as it was to experience Blunt and co. traversing Part II‘s deserted townships and pathways, so too was it to walk through a near-deserted JFK airport a week later, where an empty sports bar was showing the finance channels on TV because sport had ceased.
This was New York City at the start of March in 2020. The last days of Eden. The concept of hand sanitiser was a vague joke being tossed around by virtually everyone. The gag that “coronavirus” had the name of a beer in it had a shine to it that had not begun to wear off.
Existing there for this reason at that time seems ridiculous now, with the benefit of hindsight. Everything wildly unbalanced; the meter swinging between extreme. Eat a bagel, don’t touch subway poles. Attend an NHL game, all sports are cancelled. Interview Emily Blunt, war plan for if the Australian Government decided to abruptly shut borders to everyone.
A Quiet Place Part II could have locked me out of my own home country, maybe put my health at risk, and definitely dropped me into one of the epicentres of a global pandemic that shows little sign of yielding. And yet, only 14 months later, here in Australia we’re now in a position where we can go see it – in a cinema, with people – with relative low risk.
That’s a hell of a thing. And it’s a hell of a movie.
A Quiet Place Part II is in cinemas everywhere from March 27.
The author of this article travelled to New York City, in March 2020, as a guest of Paramount Pictures.