After More than 14 Months, Go Back to a Movie Theater and Enjoy the Silence of “A Quiet Place Part II”

26 May

There’s a scene in A Quiet Place Part II where the sound cuts out completely.

Regan Abbott, played by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, has woken up alone and discovered her cochlear implant hearing aid is missing. So she scrambles to find it without making any noises that would alert nearby alien creatures that she’s there. The creatures, of course, respond to sound, and they’re quick moving, so any furniture pivot or accidentally dropped item could mean a sudden attack. And because Regan can’t hear, she wouldn’t have any warning.

Writer/director John Krasinski portrays the scene in total silence — which not only puts us right in Regan’s head, it puts the audience on edge. Yikes.

I was watching the movie in a movie theater earlier this week, and while this scene was unfolding, the place was completely silent — the half-full audience was apparently following the action closely.

And of course, it was right around that time that someone sitting near me decided to put his drink back in the cup holder, which made a just-audible-enough sound that probably would have sent the aliens running for us in an instant if we were on screen.

I may have jumped a little. But then I smiled.

It’s a moment like that that makes A Quiet Place Part II a near-perfect first movie to see post-pandemic — and one that you have to see in a theater, with other people all around you. (Safely, of course.)

For more than 14 months, most of us have had no choice but to watch our movies at home, by ourselves, on TV screens (or worse, on mobile devices), with substandard sound. It’s been fine, tolerable, but definitely less than ideal — especially for blockbuster releases or ones where sound is critical.

More important, as if it needs to be said, for more than a year, the pandemic has kept us all apart, prevented us from enjoying communal experiences, and taken from us so many of the people and things we love. For me, moviegoing is a case in point.

Well, if you’re fully vaccinated, as I am, now is the time to venture back to a theater. This movie is definitely worth the trek.

One of the great things about the first A Quiet Place was that Krasinski made the audience feel like they were in on the film’s conceit. Watching it in a theater full of people, no one wanted to chomp on their popcorn too loudly, or cough at an inopportune time, or get up out of their seat. The film itself was a bit overrated, but its saving grace was how everyone who saw it in a theater seemed to buy in to the premise and was well behaved because of it.

A Quiet Place Part II ups the ante and ratchets up the suspense. Before, the challenge of staying quiet was simply fun. When you watch the sequel in an auditorium full of strangers today, there’s an even greater sense that we moviegoers really are all in it together. After more than a year of looking out for each other’s health and well-being, now, no one wants to be the asshole who makes a noise during a tense scene, or worse, the person who ruins the movie by talking, eating loudly, or using their cell phone.

Maybe I’m overstating the point. But it’s hard to deny A Quiet Place Part II‘s beautiful irony: It demands you stay quiet for most of its 97-minute running time, but doing so serves as an effective reminder that, for probably the first time in more than 14 months, you’re not at home watching a movie on your couch, all by yourself. You’re in a movie theater. With other people. And they’re being quiet, too. It’s awesome.

As for the movie itself … Well, let’s just say the fact that it’s as enjoyable as it is a bonus. You might even say that’s “some good news.”

The story picks up soon after the events of the first film, as Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and her three kids — Regan, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and their newborn sibling — venture out of their home and away from their life of isolation, and go in search of other survivors. They encounter Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a family friend who has lost his own wife and children, who reluctantly helps the Abbotts and gives them shelter in the bunker where he has lived for months. (Amazingly, his issue is not with the baby, whose inevitable crying will surely put them all in danger.)

While the first A Quiet Place didn’t make a whole lot of sense and raised all kinds of questions (seriously, who would decide to bring a baby into the world when alien attacks are triggered by noise??), Krasinski’s sequel is, thankfully, a more skillfully made horror film that’s not without its issues, but is less problematic plot-wise and a bit more exciting than its predecessor.

It’s photographed well. The special effects are cool, giving us a better look at the creatures than we had in the first movie. The sound design is impressive. (Try to see the film as I did, in an auditorium with a good sound system. I recommend the Dolby Cinema auditorium at the AMC Boston Common.)

It’s also a very well acted film. Blunt, sure. But the entire cast deserves mention — especially Simmonds, whose character displays a bravery and resourcefulness that make her the sequel’s true hero.

Equally notable is that Krasinski (whose character died in the original, but who makes an appearance here in the new film’s prologue) surely couldn’t have known about the pandemic. But amazingly, A Quiet Place Part II feels relevant thematically and narratively. It’s not just that the film begins on day 474 of the crisis, and in one scene, it dramatizes how some folks are less, shall we say, charitable than others. And it’s not just that the film’s originally scheduled release in March 2020 was put on hold when COVID-19 “attacked” and movie theaters themselves went silent.

It’s that, for all the scares — and there are a good number of them — this is a film about people dealing with something truly awful and unpredictable, and seemingly endless, who have learned to adapt and who are determined to survive.

After all that time on our own, A Quiet Place Part II is a film that delivers on the hype and makes going back to a theater to watch with other people well worth it. Don’t miss out on the experience.

I’m giving A Quiet Place Part II a B+.

(A Quiet Place Part II hits theaters on May 28, before streaming on Paramount+ 45 days later.)

What do you think? Will you be seeing A Quiet Place Part II in a movie theater? Or waiting till it’s streaming?

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