Bottom Line: Extremely underrated and incredibly misunderstood.
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks
Touching, heartfelt escapade about Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a nine-year-old boy with Asperger’s. He has spent his entire life in New York City bonding with his father (Tom Hanks) and not seeming to care much about his mother (Sandra Bullock). Upon his father’s tragic death in the World Trade Center on 9/11, the day he consistently refers to as “The Worst Day”, he is devastated. Two years later in this occasionally nonlinear story, he decides to search through his father’s closet out of mere curiosity. Whilst attempting to grab something off a shelf, he accidentally topples a vase over and breaks it. The vase holds an small envelope marked with a specific surname, and that envelope holds a key. Desperate to find what the key means to him (and his father), Oskar searches through the city questioning everyone with that surname of their knowledge of the key.
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE is extremely underrated and incredibly misunderstood. The one thing truly amazing about the film is how great Thomas Horn makes out in his debut acting role, especially as a lead character. I can vaguely remember him winning quite some money during Kids Week on the television game show Jeopardy! two years ago. He proves how smart he is here, as well. When the script for the film notes that he counted the number of times his father asked “Is anyone there?” on the answering machine on “The Worst Day”, that’s one thing. When he makes that statement, among many other possibilities, easy for us to believe. The other great performance in the film is from Max von Sydow. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards for his impressive portrayal of a man we initially know only as “the Renter”, because he lives for some of the time in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment. What’s so great about his performance is that in all his screen time, he speaks not one word. His character has stopped speaking because of a horrific event early on in his life; to communicate, he has handy a pocket notebook in which he answers questions, or if the question he is asked is simple, his left hand is labelled “yes” and his right “no”.
The first few minutes of EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, a title I won’t dare to abbreviate because it entails grand only in its entirety, are bound to cause wonder as to why it was nominated for Best Picture, but once those first few minutes have passed, it’s quite clear: the writer, cast, and director have all taken the subject matter into their hands together and handled it very seriously as it should be. Granted, their are quite a few flaws that are almost impossible to not pick up on, such as that there is humor placed where it shouldn’t be (i.e. the “lie-counting” Oskar does); Oskar goes a bit over the top with his rambling (rather than commiserating, we start to plead for the moment when he closes his mouth); and it sometimes doesn’t seem all too realistic (i.e. Oskar is always skipping school without consequence or warning). Other than that, this is a nice film that should leave you thinking. (It’s not every day we see a movie about a kid’s experience with 9/11, is it?)