Starts February 16
Original language: English
Despite having been nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close isn’t the kind of film I would widely recommend to anyone and everyone. You are either going to love this film, or you will hate it. Those who love it will have allowed themselves to become captivated by a young boy’s anguished journey through grief, fear, regret and acceptance after his father is killed in the World Trade Center. Those who hate it will probably feel emotionally manipulated and resent the journey as being contrived and self-important. I stand firmly in the first camp, waving my box of tissues unashamed.
Although Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock headline the star-studded cast that includes Viola Davis and Max von Sydow, they are not the focal points of this film and their roles are really not much more than long cameos. And although the central tragedy begins at the World Trader Center, this isn’t really a 9/11 story. This is the story of Oskar Schell, an 11-year-old boy who already suffers from panic attacks, and possibly Aspergers Syndrome, when the father he idolizes is killed on Sept. 11. In an attempt to make sense of his loss and hold onto his father, the precocious, highly intelligent, young Oskar sets out on a systematic city-wide search to find the lock that fits a key left by his father. His adventure forces him to confront a world that he finds dangerous, noisy, and confusing. In the process he finds a connection to new friendships and to his grief-stricken mother, while working through his fears and regrets and learning to move on.
The film is carried almost entirely by newcomer Thomas Horn, playing Oskar Schell. He had zero acting experience when producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network) noticed him as a contestant on “Kids Jeopardy” and asked the casting agent to give him a call. His parents thought it was a joke, but his intelligence and intensity won him the role and he does a fantastic job, showing a lot of insight into the complicated emotions of the grief process.
His job was made easier by a beautifully written script by Oscar-winner Eric Roth (Forest Gump), based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is director Stephen Daldry’s fourth film after Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader and so far every one has been nominated for Best Director or Best Picture at the Academy Awards. With Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he once again proves his skill at tugging at our heartstrings.
This isn’t an action-packed story, but it is an emotional adventure - sometimes funny, sometimes painful - full of complicated emotions. Maybe whether you love or hate it is a good test of how open you are to exploring those emotions.