With part one focusing on sacrifice for family, this sequel now concerns what one would give up to help others. Cillian Murphy plays the bleary Emmett, the newest addition to the series, a family friend from the ball game who ponders this question when he refuses to help the Abbotts after they step into the abandoned factory he lords over. He is incredibly resistant at first, especially given his own loss and waning food supply. And he warns Evelyn of looking for others, talking about how there are now “people who aren’t worth saving.” Emmett has an intriguing bitterness, until the film’s overall emotional growth is reduced to Emmett learning to follow the gospel of all-American hero Lee, which is not the only cheesy idea that Krasinski takes too seriously. And yet within the movie’s fear of other humans, it does ramp up a good bit of fear later on with people who are less giving than the Abbotts: it’s scary when a group of people are staring at you, and not saying a word.
As his characters venture into new territory, it’s solid craftsman Krasinski who is noticeably not taking many risks. He leads with intention, and he’s confident with multiple threads at once, and in putting every cast member (including the baby!) in uncomfortable danger. And yet any time he’ll do something really radical—like bring Regan to the forefront, alone with shotgun in hand—he eventually shirks from it for a development that’s noticeably easier. Or in some cases, he’ll rely on an easy scare with a dead body popping into frame, piling on the movie’s numerous loud noises for scares. The series’ original appeal of minimal, hushed dialogue is toyed with too, as “Part II” bends some of the rules eagerly enforced all for the sake of quiet-ish conversations that streamline emotions in a way that’s far less eloquent than the sign language in the original.
The performances remain sound, and intense, even if the story gives little space for them. Blunt is in more of a straightforward action mode, having already proven how bad-ass she was in the first movie, still embodying a great deal of physical stress and the maternal urge to protect. Jupe and Simmonds are true professionals when it comes to crying, screaming terror, and they both bring out a tenderness to this story of discovery with glimmers of hope. And Krasinski remains good at casting interesting faces for their intensity—Murphy’s face can show a certain weariness in different lights, and here he looks beat, mysterious, but human. Djimon Hounsou and Scoot McNairy also lend their unique presences to this movie, but that’s all that can really be said.
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