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- Story -
Oskar Schell lost his father on 9/11. His father used to encourage him to go on treasure hunts, to search for clues and never give up looking. One day after his funeral, Oskar is rummaging through his dads old closet and he accidentally knocks over a vase which smashes on the ground below, revealing a small packet inscribed 'Black' with a key inside. Believing this to be the last treasure hunt his father may have secretly left him, he takes it upon himself to do all he can to discover the lock that fits the key and to find whatever it is that may have been left for him.
- Thoughts & Opinions -
This is clearly quite an emotional movie, which is fictional in that its based on a novel, not a true story as such. Oskar is at times someone who can appear quite rude and standoff-ish, indeed his father originally planned the treasure hunt as a way to force him to be more social and interact with people. Its clear that he had a particularly strong bond with his father who spoke to him and interacted with him almost as if he's an adult, playing word games with him and teaching him many things.
There are numerous characters present in the movie, apart from Oskar, his mother and the scenes with his father mostly at the start of the movie, most of these other characters are the people he meets while trying to trace the keys owner and they are quite quirky and intriguing, with clearly their own issues and stories or backgrounds. The one main character that appears more than others is that of a strange elderly man who doesn't speak and communicates via his hands (with 'yes' written or tattooed on one and 'no' on the other) and hand written notes - Oskar asks him why this is and is rather suspicious, scathing even of it but we never really find a precise answer and somehow they end up as an unlikely duo, indeed rather poignantly Oskar becomes very close to him and shares things about his father and his guilt he has surrounding details about his death that day - the fact that he seemed unable to respond verbally probably proving quite comforting to him, although I was suspicious (especially given the ocassional piece of dialogue) that he might start to speak, if strained speech, at one or two points. As I mentioned earlier, Oskar is quite rude, offensive even, especially to the doorman, who's played by John Goodman - quite why I'm not sure but I suppose its partly to hint that he's keeping his emotions hidden, since he only really shares the things that hurt him the most to those that are somewhat distant to him.
There are a few twists within the plot, one or two of which I felt was unecessary, indeed at the end I was a bit disappointed with the way that it had ended. Oskar is clearly a very child and the movie is based around the concept of following the clues and never giving up, yet when the puzzle is finally solved, as it were, I thought that the place the final clue or conclusion was discovered was a bit basic, in as much as I questioned why he hadn't checked there a long time before. Not only that but another twist involving the mother made me feel a bit sceptical - I somehow felt a bit disillusioned by the end of the movie, like it could, or should, have ended better somehow, though exactly how im not sure. There were some loose ends which never quite seemed to be answered, although I suppose depending on your outlook, maybe they don't matter too much overall. I wouldn't say the movie is awful or certainly not without its interest, the concept I thought was quite endearing and I like that the movie tells the story entirely from Oskars point of view, having seen a documentary a year or two back about the children of 9/11 victims who were young when they lost their parent(s); I know that they can feel perhaps a bit overlooked at times - there are many movies that have been made which feature or revolve around 9/11 somehow and this one is pretty sensitively done, although I couldn't help but question some things that seemed to go unquestioned throughout.
There is some very poignant dialogue and its quite an emotional watch, as I say, with solid performances from a decent cast including Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman. It surprised me to see Bullock in this movie given I didn't think she appeared in too many drama movies these days but that was just a passing thought - some of the harder scenes to watch involve Oskar being confronted by his mum, who Bullock portrays, Oskar having hidden information from her and coming across as quite angry towards her, indeed the dialogue can be pretty heartbreaking.
There's not much in the way of offensive content, its obviously the theme and flashbacks to that day that may disturb some perhaps - one or two of which are rather shocking, the main one that sticks in my mind involving someone jumping from one of the towers.
While the movie certainly has its flaws, mainly in the plot towards the end, I still thought that the basic idea behind it was quite clever and quite endearing. It keeps you guessing as you follow in Oskars footsteps and become quite engrossed in his journey to discover what he believes is the last clue or treasure hunt his dad left him. It is pretty sentimental at times and I'll admit I did shed a tear or two during a specific scene, it is pretty moving at times, so it works well in that regards - if you don't let little details bother you too much (as sometimes I might) then this is a pretty good movie that your likely to enjoy (although perhaps enjoy isn't quite the right term given what its about but you know what I mean).
- Would I Recommend It? -
There are numerous movies based around 9/11, what happened and the victims and survivors of it, so whether to recommend this specific movie relating to it or not could be a hard decision. I suppose it depends on what your looking for - this is no real action movie, instead its a curious semi-sentimental take on one childs self imposed journey to honour his dad - there are some issues, I felt, with the way it ended and so it didn't impress me as much as I probably would have liked but then I feel that this movie is more symbolic, with the ocassional message being put across through it, than its meant to be entirely logical, I suppose. I felt that for the majority of the movie, it was quite intriguing and I thought the cast and characters were all quite good, particularly the man who didn't talk. The movie didn't seem to drag on too unnecessarily and I did find one or two parts quite moving, when Oskar opened up to who were really strangers but he felt he could confide in them, so its generally a fairly good movie but I still can't shake off the feeling of slight disappointment by the ending, so I suppose overall I can't really decide whether or not to recommend this - I'd say its worth watching and see what you think but I imagine parents who are keen on watching for a sad story and want to shed a tear or two would probably like this.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful. Thanks for any and all rates and comments.
Star - Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock
Genre - Drama
County - USA
Certificate - PG13
Run Time - 129 minutes
Awards - 2 Oscar nominations
Blockbusters - £.0 per night rental
Amazon - £5.00 DVD (£8.75 Blue Ray)
So 10 years on from 911 and we have Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, directed by Stephen Daldry and only the second September 11 movie to be nominated for an Oscar, United 93 being the first, both British directed films. This is the first movie Daldry has done that he has not been nominated for the Best Director Oscar , his only other movies of The Hours, Billy Elliot and the Reader being nominated but drawing a blank on the big night. For this particular movie, at the grand old age of 82, Swedish co-star Max von Sydow also became the second oldest man to be nominated for a male acting Oscar, beaten by just 50 days by Hal Holbrook in 2007 for Best Supporting in the atmospheric and somewhat bleak 'Into the Wild'. Rather unfortunately for von Sydow, he turned down the role of Hal in the film 'Beginners' to take this role, which was passed to fellow octogenarian Christopher Plummer, who was also nominated that year and went on to win the Oscar for Beginners and become the oldest ever male Oscar winner.
It's based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer and the star of the film if the rather precocious 13-year-old Thomas Horn, coming to the attention of director Stephen Daldry for the extremely complex role when, at the age of 11, won $31,800 on a "Kids Week" episode of the American TV series Jeopardy! , that aired in 2010. He also came third and then fourth in the National Spelling Bee and speaks fluent Croatian, Spanish and Mandarin.
* Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell
* Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell
* Sandra Bullock as Linda Schell
* Max von Sydow as The Renter
* Viola Davis as Abby Black
* John Goodman as Stan the Doorman
* Jeffrey Wright as William Black
* Zoe Caldwell as Oskar's grandmother
* Hazelle Goodman as Hazelle Black
=== The Plot ===
It's a year on from 911 in New York City and little autistic Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is still unable to deal with the death of his father in the Twin Towers. Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), like most who died that day, left no trace of his body and so buried in an empty coffin, too an autistic kid like Oskar, that an oxymoron that does not compute. He wants to know where dad has gone and whether he can get him back in some form and mum (Sandra Bullock) can't explain it either and also struggling with her grieving and the increasingly disruptive Oskar.
Oskar was very close to dad and to deal with Oskar's autism he would set him intellectual challenges to keep his mind alert and so less volatile, one such challenge the search for the imaginary sixth New York Borough, leaving clues across the city for his son to find on day trips, the last challenge they would ever do together. So when Oskar breaks a vase in dad's untouched bedroom shrine since that terrible day and it produces a hidden key and what looks like the first clue, that or a name on a piece of paper, young Oskar decides it's another of dads challenges and sets out to crack the mystery, hoping it will give him answers to why dad died and so some sort of piece of mind. The key must open a lock and Oskar is going to find it.
The name 'Black' is written on the paper and so Oskar, being the meticulous autistic he is, arms himself with his stress tambourine and rucksack and intends to visit all 472 of the 'Black's' in New York, lots of conversations to be had with strangers and lots of locks to try in the coming weeks, months, and even years if it's the last name on the list. He gets an unlikely helper in the form in his estranged mute grandfather (Max von Sydow), who keeps him going through curiosity for this strange man, another unexplainable for Oskar, someone also traumatized by his parent's cruel death when he was young.
During the film we repeatedly flashback to September 11 and what mum and son were doing on that day, Oskar allowed home from school because of the tragedy, mum seeing the plane hit outside of her office window and in phone contact with Thomas as it unfolded, both increasingly desperate. But what mom didn't know was dad was calling home and little Oskar was too scared to pick up the answer phone the six times it rang, a guilt he has carried for one whole year, the final call his fathers death as he watched the towers collapse on TV. And when you have to deal with emotions and you don't know what emotions are then how would you understand the finality of death and the guilt that follows?
=== Results ===
If ever the title of a movie gives away the problems of it then 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' is that movie. Sometimes books just don't translate to films and become hard work for the viewer. I haven't read the book but the ideas and narrative in the film suggest it was probably extremely intelligent and emotive and so, perhaps, clearly too tough to transfer to the big screen, literally being shouted at you here by young Thomas Horn in case you didn't pick up on them. This really is a film that split opinion with critics and audiences alike, Thomas Schell's lead and deliberately obnoxious turn that essentially is the film and the reason to watch it an acquired taste.
As with all movie autistics our Oskar appears to be extremely clever although it's never disclosed he actually has the condition in the film, which may have irritated the critics even more. The truth is that autistics are often of average intelligence and end up throwing the Rubik Cube at the wall after ten seconds, like the rest of us. I suppose it helps parents of these often troublesome children to believe that to make things better. I don't know what levels of research Thomas Horn did to play Oskar and it would not surprise me if part of his prep was to draw from that cliché movie autistic. Saying that his performance is very confident for a young actor and I suppose part of the role he plays is to annoy the audience because he is different, which he does very well. Only families with autistic kids can really judge his performance here.
For me the movie is about healing and coming to understand that some things in life can't be explained', like death, love and what a family is actually for. The kid knows dads is made up of tiny particles and returned to them when crushed in the tower and so wants to know if all those fairytales about heaven and the spirit are true. But the film missed its emotional trick when meeting all the people named Black in the city for me and how their stories relate to 911 wasn't exploited. The whole thing just races through the books message and the best stuff is lost in translation by the looks.
Its not a Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock movie in any way are there just to get the film funded, and play two- dimensional characters throughout, keeping the camera on Oskar and big noisy New York that scares the hell out of him, which works to some extent and fair play to the kid for being so brave to carry the movie and the pressure that comes with his likewise performance. But once you start hating the kid for being so loud and autistic on screen you tend to lose your liking for the film. I stuck with it but many didn't. The Sixth Sense worked better, simply because the seemingly autistic kid was cute and not so threatening.
The general public clearly didn't find it that palatable and for its $40 million budget it did just $47 million back, killed by word - of - mouth and all but a loss on a Hollywood spreadsheet these days. But it looked good and the director enjoys the use of color and sound to a pleasing effect and draws the viewer into Oskar's world of phobias and uncertainties in a very different New York to Woody Allen's. The emotional ideas in the film on loss and separation are interesting and so perhaps reading the book the better option here to get the better punch. But at least it wasn't the usual bombastic trite and tribal affair 911 movies have been so far.
=== Ratings ===
Imdb.com - 6.8/10.0 (49,123 votes)
Metacritc.com - 46% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 47% critic's approval rating
Film4 -'A mixed bag of intelligent tragedy and poor choices, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has the ability to tug at the heart strings - it just gets them a bit tangled'.
Empire Magazine -'It's challenging, divisive and has moments of beauty but leaves you cold'.
The Guardian -'[An] intensely self-conscious movie that contrives to make the human cost and human meaning of 9/11 distant and faint'.
Msn -'As Oskar opines about his father's casket: "It's just an empty box". The same charge the film's guilty of'.
Spectrum Magazine -'It may try too hard, and it borders on the implausible early and often, but the performance of newcomer Thomas Horn is relentlessly earnest and believable'.
Ultra Culture -'Feels like a Very Special Episode of a hopelessly lightweight kids TV show, misguidedly attempting to have its say on an issue it can barely comprehend, let alone interpret'.
The Daily Telegraph -'You rather end up wishing Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close would just pipe down and back off'.
This film follows Oskar Schell, an incredibly annoying but seemingly complex child who is full of questions and in search of many answers. His world is his father and more importantly his father understands him. Oskar suffers with a mild form of Asperger's Syndrome and everything has to be just so. Despite only being young (his age from what I remember is never actually offered, but I would place him at about 11) his relationship with his mother seems troubled and strained. From the beginning of the film, we know that his father has passed away, yet it keeps flashing back to scenes with his father. We are given clues as to how he lost his life, which are obvious if you are looking for them. The film subsequently follows Oskar's search for the lock to fit a key that he has found in his father's belongings.
I found this film enjoyable to some extent but really annoying to another! The concept of the film was brilliant, a real adventure as Oskar takes his one and only clue, the word 'Black', and hunts down where the key fits. Along the way he meets lots of interesting people, all with their own story to share. This I found really interesting, and without realising it, he begins his own story along the way. What I disliked about the film (and I feel particularly harsh saying this), was the actor who played the part of Oskar. Unfortunately I could not warm to him, and I just found him plain annoying all the way through. I have to say that this is down to the character as opposed to the actor as I'm sure he's a cracking little actor to take the lead role in a film with such an amazing cast, but as I said I just could not warm to him one bit.
The cast is surprisingly low key given that it has Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman in it. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock play Oskar's parents. Hanks cast as Thomas Schell is an amazing man, full of knowledge which he shares with his son through riddles and adventures. He has a significant but small role in the film, as does Sandra Bullock who plays Linda Schell. A weary mother who loves her son but finds him distant, she plays a much smaller part than Hanks and this seems a shame. I would have quite liked her character to have been explored a little further.
Although the main story of the film centres on Oskar's search for the lock to which he has the key, another story about his relationships soon starts to be explored and this is what I favoured more in the film. Oskar's understanding of the world around him is blurred by the loss of his father and the emotions that have overtaken him, however these new relationships (and one in particular), slowly start to make him happy again and this made the film for me. There are some emotional scenes in the film and you definitely need to have a brave face on when watching the film.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, however I cannot comment on the differences as I haven't read the book. I would imagine that in the book, some of the characters such as Linda Schell, were explored more and were more in depth, therefore I will be giving the novel a go and hoping I favour it more than I did the film adaptation.
I would certainly recommend this film.
"I didn't know what was waiting for me. Although my stomach hurt and my eyes were watering I'd made up my mind that nothing was gonna stop me. Not even me." - Oskar
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a film based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. It tells the tale of our young protagonist Oskar, a self confessed inventor and socially awkward adolescent, who explains himself and his unique personality, saying " I got tested once to see if I had Asperger's disease. Dad said it's for people who are smarter than everybody else but can't run straight. The tests weren't definitive...". Oskar's favourite moments are spent on reconnaisance missions from his father searching for Manhattan's elusive 'district 6'.
We meet Oskar in the months following 'the worst day' or 9/11 to us. He has lost his Dad and is battling to come to terms with his grief. We follow his journey through this grief, and his anger and confusion at what has happened.
When venturing in to his father's bedroom for the first time since his death he stumbles across a blue vase, accidentally smashing it and finding a mysterious key. Assuming this is one last reconnaissance mission from his father he embarks upon a hunt to discover the true meaning of the key.
As the film progresses we come to see the true extent of Oskar's social quirks, as he carries his trusty tambourine, avoiding anything too high, or too noisy, or people looking up, or people crying. Initially, truthfully it was hard to warm to Oskar's character as he was demanding and over familiar, but within fifteen minutes his quirkiness becomes really evident, and his affectionate nature and naivety become so endearing, we sincerely begin to care about his quest.
His search for the lock that fits the key takes him further away from his home, yet actually brings him closer to the one person he was travelling further from, his mother. Missing his father and the way he could think like Oskar, his relationship with his mother falters, but when he sees the lengths that his mother will go to, to understand him and his feelings he renews his bond with her.
This is a film that explores the themes of loss, and indeed of finding that which is missing. It explores the emotions that drive grief and guilt and confusion after the death of a loved one.
With a fantastic cast including Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, I had high expectations of this film, even though a friend described it is indie and over indulgent, I had to disagree. Although she isn't present for very long Sandra Bullock's character is heartfelt and open, and very well presented. Whilst at times it does seem a bit smushy, it fills a gap. There are no films out there that explore the impact of 9/11 on the children that lost loved ones, and this film, through the eyes of Oskar explores the ripples of such a loss perfectly. It also doesn't bombard you with the images of the towers, that most 9/11 films seem to.
Filled with quite a few genuine laugh out loud moments, including one particular scene involving a visit to the subway, it is a tender but heart breaking journey for the young Oskar, battling with his own secrets and fighting to remain close to his father regardless of any demons he has to face in order to do so.
I did expect to cry, because I cry at adverts quite reguarly, so prolonged contact with a character such as Oskar was bound to ellicit a typically dramatic response from me, but cry I did.
When I realised the main action would be presented by Oskar I was concerned about such a youngster carrying the whole of such a deep film. I needn't have worried. Thomas Horn is a promising young actor who carried the film very well. One scene with 'the renter' in particular was phenomenal, and showed his talents at their best, with manicness and fear, and breathlessness.
All in all, extremely touching and incredibly good.
Sandra Bullock's first film in two years after her Oscar win for 'The Blind Side', 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' was also a strong award contender, being nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actor).
Nine year old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) suffers from aspergers and has always been close to his dad (Tom Hanks) who sends him on missions, getting him to talk to people. When his father dies in the 9/11 bombings, he is heartbroken and lost, until he finds a key his father left behind.
Determined to find the lock the key fits, Oskar travels across Manhattan asking everyone with the name 'Black' (which was written on the back of the envelope) to prolong the connection he has with his father.
From Oskar's perspective, the film is told through his eyes, his observations, his feelings and the character development is phenomenal. We are immediately gripped into this boy's life and whilst we may not understand why he does some of the things he does, we know his heart is pure.
The film does not shy aware from showing true emotion and gritty scenes which really expose the feelings of characters. The emotional scene between Oskar and his mother (Sandra Bullock) reveals the honesty of their relationship.
As Oskar's adventure continues, he meets the 'Renter', a man staying at his grandmother's house which he eventually discovers is his grandfather, who has never met his son Thomas. Oskar recruits his grandfather on his journey and the two share some very heartfelt moments, earning Max von Sydow his Oscar nomination.
At over two hours long, the film draws you in in wanting to find out what the key unlocks and if Oskar will relish in the relationships he still has. As the film reaches its climax, the film takes a drastic turn and though sad and emotionally powerful, the catharsis is brilliantly sweet, loving and even more overpowering. I loved the ending and it really shows the true meaning of love.
Tom Hanks- Thomas Schell
Sandra Bullock- Linda Schell
Thomas Horn- Oskar Schell
Also stars Max von Sydow (nominated for best supporting actor).
The young Thomas Horn definitely showed his acting potential with a genuine and convincing performance as a boy with aspergers and I was utterly surprised he was not nominated for an Academy Award. Sandra Bullock also did not let the movie down with a powerful performance, despite her low screen time.
'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' is a brilliantly moving story of self discovery, love and letting go. With the wonderfully acted perspective of a nine year old with aspergers by Thomas Schell and a great supporting cast of Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks and Max von Sydow, the film's strengths lie in its characters and relationships. Though sad and emotional, the movie leaves you on a high note of unrequited love and acceptance.
**Film only review**
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close is the film version of a book by the same name written by Jonathan Safran Foer. I read the book about a year ago and enjoyed it very much so I was very eager to see what kind of film this could make.
The film stars Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell and Sandra Bullock as Linda Schell, they play the parents of an extraordinary young boy called Oskar played by Thomas Horn.
Oskar is loved very much by his parents and shares a close bond with his father, Oskar and his father are searching for the mysterious sixth borough of New York, Thomas sends Oskar out into Central Park each weekend searching for evidence that this mysterious borough once existed, before it unfortunately sank the only area that the New Yorkers managed to save was Central Park.
We can easily see that Thomas sends Oskar out in to the world on this quest as it encourages him to communicate with people and interact with the world in general; the film very briefly touches upon the possibility of Oskar having Asperges Syndrome.
Life for Oskar seems quite charmed until his father dies in one of the Twin Towers, then his life is ripped apart as he can not understand why such a terrible event happened, as the year rolls on he feels he is losing his father a little more each day.
That is until he breaks an old vase that has been sat on the top shelf of his fathers' closet, inside the vase is an envelope with the word Black written on, in the envelope is a small key, immediately Oskar grasps on to this key and he makes the assumption that this is another quest set up by his father.
Oskar sets about looking for this person named Black who must have the lock into which the key fits, the film follows Oskar's ups and downs as he tries to overcome his fears and keep hold of the last bit of his father.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I know a lot of people find the setting surrounding this film a bit distasteful as 9/11 is still a very recent event, but a lot of films are based around pivotal moments in history, and this film handles the grief and disbelief that the whole world felt during and after the event very carefully.
Tom Hanks' role in the film is very small but the actions of his character are the axis for the film, Tom plays the role of Oskars father with ease, he seems to be an amalgamation of all the characters he has ever played, he is warm, loving, encouraging and strong. He is everything you could want from a father.
Sandra Bullocks' character relies upon the other characters; she is Oskar's mother and Thomas' wife, she does not seem to develop until the very end of the film, it is only then we get to see the level of devotion she has towards Oskar.
Oskar is helped along in his quest by the mysterious Renter played by Max Von Sydow, The Renter lives in his Oskars' Grandmothers spare bedroom, The Renter has his own story to tell and there is an air of deep sadness about him, the twist to this is that The Renter does not talk and can only communicate via a small notebook and the words Yes and No tattooed upon the palm of each hand. He bonds very quickly with Oskar. Max Von Sydow is an amazing actor; he can get across an entire range of emotions using just his face and body. I feel that more could have been made of the part of The Renter but the film gets buy well enough with the small amount we do get.
The part Oskars grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) plays in his life is greatly downgraded from the book, I feel like if she could have been written out of the film she would have been.
A lot of praise has been heaped upon Thomas Horns' acting abilities in this film, and while he was very good as Oskar I did not find him to be as amazing as I had been led to believe.
I thoroughly recommend this film; it is quite a serious and personal look at how 9/11 affected a family and especially one small boy. The images of the falling man from one of the Twin Towers could possibly shock some of the more sensitive viewers, but they are tastefully done and are not original footage.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not a feel good film, I can not see myself rushing to watch this again. The acting is excellent, as you would expect from the top names involved, the film has a nice solid beginning, middle and end, you can easily see where it is going and what some of the twists are a mile off and the "bad things happen to good people for no reason, but we all get through it in the end" lesson is thoroughly embedded throughout.
The imagery in the film is good, shots from above, falling paper and fluttering birds all add to the general sadness, also the sun never appears to shine. The incidental music in the film must be good and in place as I really did not notice it. I can not see the differnce watching this on Blu Ray made, the picture and sound quality is excellent but there is nothing that warrents the extra expense of a HD format.
This film does not wow me, maybe I spoilt myself by reading the book first, but if they adapt another Jonathan Safran Foer book I will be more than happy to give it a watch.
Running time 129 minutes.
Thank you for reading.
Winner of the 84th Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best supporting Actor (Max von Sydow), I was originally not tempted by this film as I thought it would be the over sentimental type that Hollywood does best. However it was directed by Stephen Daldry who also directed two of my favourite films (Billy Elliot and The Reader) and I'm a fan of Tom Hanks so I thought I'd give it a go. I'm still not entirely sure if I like the film or not.
Please note, this review is of the film only.
Oskar Schell is a nine year old boy living in New York with his parents Thomas and Linda, his Grandmother living in an apartment opposite. Oscar comes across as slightly autistic, in that he has set patterns and doesn't understand social norms (He reminds me a bit of Christopher from Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). In order to attempt to overcome Oskar's shyness and difficulty relating to other people, his father invents little adventures for Oskar to complete, exploring the people and places of New York in order to discover the mysterious 'sixth borough' which disappeared many years ago.
When Thomas dies in the collapse of the World Trade Centre in September 2011, Oskar uses a key he finds as a link to his father a way to deal with his grief and resist facing the emotions that risk tearing him apart. The only clue given is the word 'Black' printed on the envelope and so Oskar must overcome his many fears (Which have increased considerably since 9/11) to start a new adventure to track down Black, to find the lock that the key fits and thus feel closer to his father. Through his adventure, he discovers new experiences and people across New York, builds a relationship with 'the renter', the mysterious man who cannot speak due to his own childhood trauma of death of his parents during World War II.
Oskar Schell - Thomas Horn (First film, currently in two movies to be released in 2013)
Thomas Schell - Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump, The Terminal)
Linda Schell - Sandra Bullock (Crash, The proposal, The Blind Side)
The Renter - Max von Sydow (Minority Report, The Exercist, Shutter Island)
Abby Black - Viola Davis (The Help, Doubt)
Stan the Doorman - John Goodman (Roseanne, The Artist)
William Black - Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, James Bond)
Thomas Horn is an amazing find and acts brilliantly in the role especially considering this is his first acting job. After a national search to find the right boy to play Oskar Schell, Horn was discovered due to an appearance on a Kids Week version of the US game show Jeopardy! (He won $31,800). He really gives the character an emotional depth and is believable in doing so. For someone at his age who has never acted before to hold a film together as well as he does is very impressive.
Although I am a big Tom Hanks fan I have to say that I don't live him in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. He's not in the film long so it really isn't that big of an issue but to me he seemed like an amalgamation of previous roles, I kept expecting him to get stuck on an Island or start looking for Dan Brown to ask what his character does next. Although a lot of his previous roles have been similar I normally forget previous roles and get immersed in his currently character but in this film he remained Tom Hanks to me, not Oskar's father Thomas Schell.
I have to say that I love John Goodman as Stan the Doorman, a small but genuinely funny role that provides for some light entertainment in the film. Casting Goodman as this character was genius. Sandra Bullock pretty much takes a back sit in this film, when she is evident her acting is pretty good (It's great that she's not afraid to look old or tired, it annoys me when film stars refuse to look their age). Max von Sydow is excellent as 'the renter', it's clear to see why he won his award for best supporting actor. His face can tell you all you need to know without him having to speak a word. The actors who play Mr and Mrs Black are also very good.
The film is based upon a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer which has won a number of awards. As of yet I haven't read it, I've just ordered it for my kindle. He has also written another novel called Everything Is Illuminated, about a young American Jew who journeys to Ukraine in search the woman who saved his grandfather's life during the Nazi liquidation of Trachimbrod, which I've just ordered to as it sounds really interesting.
I do generally like to read a novel first before watching any film adaptations as I always find that characters are provided with much more story in the paper version. I'm hoping that The Renter is more developed in the novel as although Max von Sydow portrayed him brilliantly I don't fell as if we were given the full story.
I try to not watch films that have the events of 9/11 as part of a subplot as I think it's difficult to create films that deal with the aftermath of high profile horrific events, such as 9/11. So much is known already and the result is often a movie that is over sentimental or unsympathetic rather than realistic. I do think that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close manages to come close to the right balance, perhaps achieved through using a child as the key perspective and through having such a good actor playing that role.
The film is gritty and realistic and yet at times I did feel as detached from the film as Oskar does from real life. The acting is exceptional, with a few exceptions, it has a great story and it deals with grief, loss, love and relationships in an insightful and thought provoking way and yet for me there was something not quite right. All of the pieces were there for an exceptional film and yet it is like someone put some of the jigsaw pieces in the wrong place. Hopefully reading the novel will complete some of the gaps, I would recommend watching it though.
Runtime: 129 Minutes
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
RELEASED: 2011, Cert. 12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 130 mins
DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry
PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
SCREENPLAY: Eric Roth
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell
Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell
Sandra Bullock as Linda Schell
Max Von Sydow as the old man
Zoe Caldwell as Oskar's Grandmother
Hazelle Goodman as Hazelle Black
Jeffrey Wright as William Black
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Taken from Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close tells the story of a chunk from a strange, yet very intelligent boy's life.
Oskar and his father Thomas are very close, playing discovery games with one another, a particular favourite being a make-believe hunt for the 'sixth' borough of New York which according to Thomas, was dragged away and buried.
When Thomas is tragically killed in the 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist attack, Oskar turns away from his mother, seeking solace in his grandmother who seems to understand him.
One day whilst rooting around in his late father's cupboard, Oskar accidentally smashes a vase, inside of which is a key, accompanied by a note which bears just one written word, 'Black'. Mystified as to the meaning of this cryptic note, Oskar obsessively hatches a grand master plan to try and find out if there is a lock somewhere that the key will fit.
One evening Oskar discovers his grandmother has taken in who appears to be a lodger, and the pair hesitatingly make friends. The lodger, an elderly man, is mute, being totally unable to speak, yet he communicates with Oskar through writing notes. Oskar draws the elderly man into his hunt for the lock which the key will open, beginning with paying a visit to everybody in the city of New York who has the surname Black.
That sets the scene....to learn more, you must see the film for yourself.
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close honestly is one of the strangest films I have ever seen.....deliciously pointless, yet nonetheless entertaining and enjoyable.
I was very impressed with the acting from the whole cast, particularly that of Tom Hanks as Thomas, Oskar's father, young Thomas Horn as Oskar and Max Von Sydow as the elderly mute man whose name we never learn. I loved Tom Hanks' portrayal of a vibrant, loving and adventure-seeking father who obviously idolises his rather strange son, and until I checked the cast list during the closing credits, I honestly hadn't realised it was Hanks....he being one of my all-time favourite actors. His part in the film is relatively small compared to the rest of the cast, but his character is of extreme significance to the storyline.
I was also very impressed with Max Von Sydow's brilliant delivery of the elderly mute man who seemed fascinated by young Oskar's strange quest and wanted to help. I loved his facial expressions which ranged from wonderment to mild irritation, and bearing in mind this wasn't a speaking part, I felt Von Sydow managed to build a thoroughly intriguing, almost mesmerising character who I did feel a little sorry for at various points, simply because his age precluded him from keeping up with the energetic Oskar on a physical level. He also had to tolerate quite a lot of backchat from Oskar too....backchat which here and there bordered upon downright rudeness.
Although their parts (despite being of relevance) in the film were minor compared to the rest of the main cast, I also was impressed with the acting abilities of Hazelle Goodman and Jeffrey Wright as husband and wife Hazelle and William Black....a couple who have hit hard times in their marriage, yet still in their own way and individually offer Oskar a helping hand. Both of these characters had such beautiful speaking voices and a soft, gentle demeanour, which is something I admire.
Sandra Bullock also played her role as Linda Schell, Oskar's grieving mother, very well...a woman who felt disconnected from her son despite her efforts to get close to him, with the loss of her husband in the 9/11 tragedy driving them even further apart.
Alhough I was extremely impressed with the acting abilities of whole main cast, the absolute crowning glory in this film has to be Thomas Horn as Oskar, the highly intelligent, articulate young boy who does have some behavioural problems and is definitely not like other boys. Thomas Horn I believe was 13 or 14 when he played this role, although I'd guess the character of Oskar is intended to be aged about 10 or so. Horn has the most amazingly beautiful speaking voice with clear diction and a lovely tone, and he has utterly gorgeous eyes...a boy one day some lucky girl will be prepared to die for, he is so good-looking. Bearing in mind that Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close was only released last year (2011), I have earmarked Thomas Horn as being a potentially vibrant force within the acting world both now and in the future, so long as he continues to work in the field of cinema and dramatics. He in this film gave what I can honestly say is by far the very best performance I've ever seen by a child actor and I hope he goes far. The part of Oskar must have been a very difficult and demanding role to play, and he certainly gives it his all. I can't say that I found the fictional Oskar a particularly appealing child as a character, but I don't think anybody could have played him better than Thomas Horn. Horn admirably coped with carrying most of the film's rather complex dialogue off to perfection, plus he brilliantly portrayed the facial expressions, moods and oddities of a young boy who although not overly unpleasant for the most part, at times displays some borderline disturbing behavioural problems. Up to a point and looking back to my own childhood, I could very slightly identify with some of Oskar's idiosyncrasies, particularly his super-awareness and fear of danger and his painful intolerance of loud noises.
I can't say too much about the music because it didn't really grab me, as it was rather ordinary-sounding....mostly of a light orchestral nature.
I did find Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close a rather strange film, although I was easily drawn into the storyline and pretty much glued to the screen from start to finish. It's definitely an unusual tale of a young boy's single-minded obsession with a strange quest, yet even bearing in mind how much I enjoyed this film, I still - with hindsight - can't quite get to grips with what it was trying to convey exactly. I have come to the conclusion that it is just a piece of very well put together entertainment which perhaps doesn't have a point as such.
I believe that Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close quite likely wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, as it has a very quirky storyline together with being one of those types of films that concentrates heavily on character development and dialogue. As far as I'm concerned, the screenplay/dialogue is perfectly constructed and I do like the somewhat offbeat situation which runs throughout. Overall, I think I was more impressed with the acting than anything....brilliant actors and a solid dialogue do it for me every time.
However, despite very much enjoying Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, I don't think it's something I'd like to see again, simply because it's one of those films whereby once you know the outcome, that's it!
I would strongly recommend this film to anybody who likes something they can get right into and lose themselves in for an hour and a half or so, but do reiterate the warning that the storyline is a bit odd, perhaps bordering on the pointless....although perhaps that's how it's meant to be.
At the time of writing, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £10.86 to £23.05
Used: from £8.99 to £21.05
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Having read the book, with the same name, by Jonathan Safran Foer and fallen in love with every word he had written I could not wait to see the film when it came out. I rushed straight to the cinema when it came out and have since purchased it on DVD.
There is a strange sense of expectation and protectiveness if you have read a book and loved it and then know it is being made into a film. I wanted to preserve the brilliance of the book and not have it tainted by what could have potentially been a second rate film. However, what I saw on screen was so pure that I fell in love all over again. The film has been produced tentatively and sensitively, with total reverence for what is an incredible and moving book. The casting could not be more perfect and the way in which it has been shot is compelling to watch. I genuinely loved every second of this film.
The film, and the book, follow the story of Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) whose father died on September 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center. Oskar is one of the many grieving victims left behind in the wake of this senseless human tragedy and the pain he feels is so acutely expressed it is hard to watch.
The film follows Oskar's journey as he makes his way across New York looking for an explanation and a lock in which the key he found in his father's wardrobe must fit. He travels to meet every person with the last name Black, as this was written on the envelope in which he found the key. The film is then laced with flashbacks which portray the close and loving relationship Oskar had with his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks). The effect is heart breaking and completely moving. As Oskar meets more and more wonderful and interesting people he begins to let go of the grief he carries around, with the help of his mother (Sandra Bullock), who watches over him from afar.
I won't tell you too much of the plot line because there are many twists and turns that you need to experience for the very first time watching this. What I can say though is that the film keeps you guessing, just as the book does, right up to the very last scene. In fact the film so closely follows the events and the feel of the book that is feels like an utterly faithful interpretation of what is a spellbinding book.
The cast are also incredible and afford the film much of its success. Tom Hanks as Thomas, Oskar's father, is warm and loving and his compassion and care for his son tears your heart out of your chest. Sandra Bullock as Oskar's mother has an equally poignant role to play in this film. Her commitment to freeing Oskar of his grief and guilt is impressive and commendable. Bullock embodies the role perfectly and is a joy to watch.
Thomas Horn is simply incredible. The character of Oskar is so unique and distinctive in the novel that it seems hard to imagine anyone in the world existing who could play Oskar in a convincing and faithful way. But someone the film has managed to find that one individual. What makes Thomas even more incredible is that prior to this film he had never acted before. In fact the casting director for the film saw him on Jeopardy and got in contact to find out if he would be willing to audition. Considering that so much of the book is routed in chance moments and human experiences the way in which they found Thomas seems completely fitting with the tone of the novel. For a début role Thomas Horn's performance simply needs to be seen to be believed. His understanding of the character is so perfect and the physical nuances that he brings to the role construct Oskar in tangible and realistic way.
The DVD cost me roughly £12, which is a standard price for a new release. I could have waited a few months in which time the price would probably have dropped considerably but I couldn't stand not owning this film straight away.
This is an astonishingly moving and heartfelt film that explores the intensity and complexity of human loss. You must watch this and so fully comprehend the beauty of the film.
Having begun as a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer in 2005, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell, a nine year old boy who goes in search of a lock to fit the key he finds hidden in a vase in the closet of his father. It also follows his journey in coming to terms with the death of his father, a man who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Flashbacks reveal what happened on what Oscar refers to as "the worst day", the day on which his father died. They also reveal the relationship between him and his father, showing their incredible bond and the things they used to do together, which actually helps Oscar go on his journey to find what he is looking for. In the end, he discovers more than just what the key unlocks, having met a number of people and making one special friend.
Release Date: February 2012
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock.
Runtime: 129 Mins
Production Company: Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros
My Opinion -
This film seems to have got a bit of a 'Marmite Reaction' in that they either love it or hate it. As a film student, I have seen a number of films this year that I could easily tell you were awful, but this is far from one of them. I thought the film was fantastic! For age only 14, Thomas Horn gave a flawless performance as Oscar Schell which I was very impressed with. His portrayal of a child with Asperges was incredible, and I think this young actor will be one to keep an eye on over the coming years. I felt that the film was told in such a unique way, credit goes to the screenwriter, it was unlike anything I have seen in a long time, as it was told through the child's eyes and brought across all of his feelings and emotions in the way that it was told. I also think that there was just the right amount of emotion bought into the film, making the viewer feel mainly for young Oscar, but also making them realise just how much what happened on 9/11 really impacted the families and friends of those lost. It is definitely a unique way of telling the story, one that I would and have recommended to everyone I know. Fantastic film, by far my favourite of 2012 so far.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Film only review
Seeing as the main character in this movie is of German descent but living in America, I think it is quite apt that I am an Englishman, living in Holland reviewing the movie that I watched on the opposite side of The Netherlands to which I live.
Having already read the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, I was quite looking forward to this movie. The only thing I knew about it beforehand was the fact that it was indeed adapted from the novel that I had read and it starred Tom Hanks. I decided to pay a visit to the cinema, I discovered that it also starred Sandra Bullock, John Goodman and misleadingly James Gadolfini.
I live in The Hague on the west of Holland and for the Easter weekend I found myself over the opposite side of Holland in the East in Almelo. Along with my girlfriend and her parents we made our way to Enschede to see the movie. Our tickets said row 'B', so I was kind of hoping that Row 'A' started at the back of the cinema or we would have an extremely loud and incredibly close viewing. Fortunatley, row 'B' was near the back.
Oskar Schell is nine years old. He likes to invent things and explore. He likes information and knowledge. His father used to set him tasks and he would go exploring with the aid of clues to find the answers. Life could be difficult for Oskar as he suffers with mild Asperges and a multitude of minor obsessive compulsive disorders.
Oskar's life is turned upside down on 11th September 2001 when he is rushed home from school because of the terrorist attack. His mother is trying to get home from work and his father is leaving messages on the answering machine; messages that come from the 106th floor of one of the towers.
Oskar never sees his father again and is distraught without him. He thinks of him constantly and every object is a reminder of his father in some way.
One year later Oskar is mooching in his Father's closet; something he has always put off until now. He comes across a blue vase, which he accidently knocks off the top shelf of storage space in the closet. The vase smashes open on the floor. Amongst the shattered china Oskar finds a small envelope with the name 'Black' written on it. The envelope contains a key.
Oskar devises a plan to search out every person in New York with the surname Black. He meets a lot of people along the way and seeing as he is not used to meeting people and feels inept at striking up a conversation, he feels his father would've been proud.
Oskar's grandmother has a lodger staying with her who Oskar is not allowed to meet. Oskar sees movement in the house one night and goes over to be confronted by an old man who is apparently mute. He has the word 'Yes' tattooed on his left hand and the word 'No' tattooed on his right. He speaks to Oskar by writing in a notebook and holding it up for Oskar to read.
'The Renter', as the old man is known, joins Oskar on his quest to find the owner of the key or indeed the lock to which the key fits.
Aided with the things he needs; a tambourine (to keep him calm), a pair of binoculars, a gas mask and the key, Oskar sets off on his quest with the old man.
Will he find the lock that the key fits or even better still what happened to his father? One thing is for sure, he will never stop trying unless it becomes mathematically impossible.
Cast and Crew
Oskar Schell played by Thomas Horn
I have to say that after reading the book that I thought they would be hard pressed to find a child actor with enough guile to play this role. When the film started I felt I was justified in this thought. Then something happened, Thomas Horn really took the role by the horns and gave it his all and I must say that he managed it very well indeed. It is not easy to play a child with all the problems of Oskar Schell and Horn did as good a job as I think anyone could have. Horn is not really from an acting background and in fact had only starred in a school play before taking this role. I think his inexperience and childlike wonder of what he is doing helped him immensely in his portrayal of this complicated young man. I can guarantee one thing for sure; this lad has a very bright future ahead of him.
Thomas Schell played by Tom Hanks
What more can be said of Tom Hanks. One of the most likable characters in film today and rightly so. Having firmly shook of the type-cast comedy actor tag of the eighties and nineties, Hanks could play a lollipop man to perfection. This role is more of a cameo by the way of flashbacks because his character is dead as the movie starts. Again, Hanks plays the role with a simplicity that belies the craft of acting. He is believable as Oskar's father and the two bounce off each other really well.
Linda Schell played by Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock is another actor who was better known for her comedic roles but has since starred in some more meatier productions. I really liked her in this movie. It would've been so easy to over-state this part. Like Hanks, she keeps it simple and by doing so keeps it real. Another thoroughly believable performance.
The Renter played by Max Von Sydow
Many of you (those old enough anyway) will remember Max Von Sydow from the Exorcist in his role as Father Merrin in 1973. In this movie he plays a mute who converses by way of a notebook and a yes and no tattoo on each hand. He was nominated for 'Best Supporting Actor' at the academy awards and became the second oldest man in the awards history to be nominated for best support. It is ironic that a man with such a beautiful diction should be silent in this movie. Nevertheless, he makes the role his own and plays it to the best of his capabilities. A thoroughly enjoyable character.
The Director and his work
Director Stephen Dalding is known for his time at the helm on the movies 'Billy Elliot', 'The Hours' and the more recently 'The Reader' starring Kate Winslet. He also caused some undeserved controversy when he married a woman and had a child after being in a gay relationship for thirteen years. The direction on this movie was not too far away from his other movies but I like the subtlety of some of the shots. Some of the twin tower shots must have been hard to view back in editing after the CGI had been put in place. It's not a beautiful movie in the way of cinematography but it is a solid movie that looks good in all the right places and flows along rather nicely at its own merry pace. It was quite well publicised that Daldry wanted the movie to wrap up in the fall of 2011 so that it would coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. This was just not possible in the end and Daldry and the crew had to settle for a finish just into the New Year.
Daldry must have a way with actors because aside from Max Von Sydow's 'Best supporting' nomination on this movie he has also directed Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Julie Walters, Ed Harris and Kate Winslet to nominations or award success.
It's always a difficult one when it comes to seeing a movie and you have already read the book that it has been adapted from. I think you have to treat the movie as a separate entity. I am a movie buff but also a massive book fan and I usually favour the book. This is the case with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The book is a lot more in-depth when it comes to Max Von Sydow's character, the renter and this was one of my favourite parts of the book. I always knew it would be hard to translate this character to the screen but I think Daldry and the script writer Eric Roth did a very good job at doing so. However, to tell the Renter's story like the book does would have entailed a lot of hard work and along with it a lot of confusion for the audience. That said it still does translate rather well and as I already referred to, it does not do any good trying to compare the two as they are two different works of art and stand up in their own right.
For me the performance of Thomas Horn was incredible and even more so due to the fact that he had never acted on screen before. There are some harrowing and heart wrenching scenes in the movie and the young Horn delivers a convincing performance. A couple of scenes with his on-screen mother, Sandra Bullock are veritable tear-jerkers and must have provoked some real feelings when being filmed.
It will be really interesting to see the cast interviews on the DVD extras to see just how profound an effect this young man had on the more seasoned actors. I will add the DVD review to this account in the future.
It was nice to see Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in roles that were understated, thus leaving the limelight to the movies true star, Thomas Horn. I like the way Horn evolved into the role and you are never quite sure whether you like him or not.
Max Von Sydow was brilliant as the Renter and although the complete sadness of this man is not transferred from the book to the movie because of time and script length, I still think he carries it off and makes the audience warm to him.
John Goodman makes brief appearances throughout the movie as 'Stan', the doorman of the building were the Schells live.
James Galdolfini is listed as an actor on this movie on most internet sites. He did indeed film parts for this movie as a grief counsellor for Linda Schell. The scenes were viewed negatively by screen testers and the part was removed from the movie. So although he is listed as an actor on the movie on lots of sites, he does not actually physically appear on screen.
Viola Davis plays a woman called Abby Black and Jeffrey Wright plays her ex-husband William Black. There are some good scenes from both these actors with the young Horn. Davis has a very touching scene with him near the beginning of the movie and Wright has a poignant scene with him near the end. Talking of poignant scenes, throughout the movie there are reminders of 9/11, which Oskar calls 'The Worst day' and some of the subliminal shots are hard hitting and to the point. A reflection through a clear vase as we see a body falling from one of the towers is a reminder of the choices people faced on that horrible day. A flash or dream sequence with Tom Hanks falling is quick and to the point just like the actual falls themselves must have been.
Oskar steps on to the rocks near central park and we get a glimpse of the New York skyline and it just makes you realize how different it is and how prominent those Twin towers were. It really does send a shiver through you to think what happened on that day. In one of the flashback scenes, Sandra Bullock is standing in her office talking to her husband on the phone. He tells her he is in one of the towers. As she listens to him she looks out of the large office window and we can see the towers on fire in the distance. It is a striking image and one that will provoke many feelings amongst the New Yorkers that watch this movie and indeed people all around the world.
All in all I thought this movie was a good watch and worth giving a go whether you have read the book or not. It won't break any box office records but it will definitely leave its mark and it stays with you for a time after seeing it, which is always a good sign that a movie has done what it set out to do. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was not made to shock, it was made to remind us that we are all vulnerable and that it doesn't matter how safe we think we are, we can be got at. It also reminds us that we can make a stand, we can fight back. I for one hope we do it sooner, rather than later, so we don't have to witness or suffer another 9/11.
A lot of negative hype surrounds the latest film from Academy Award nominated director Stephen Daldry. As the overly sentimental, manipulative film that stole the much-coveted Best Picture slot fom "Drive," the lowest rated film on Rottentomatoes that made it to the nominations list in this year's Oscars, it looks as though Daldry's most recent work won't be receiving similar attention his previous films such as "Billy Elliot" and "The Hours" enjoyed. And unfortunately for Daldry, a director who worked hard on the project, originally wanting the film to have been released in 2011 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, the content of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" won't help win over any audience members who were sceptical to start out with.
9/11 is a delicate subject that cannot be taken lightly in fictitious work. Set a foot wrong and you will most likely offend those who were involved in the incident. It remains a fresh wound, and therefore thr subject needs careful direction. And with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Daldry is too careful - and is so worried of doing anything ever so slightly wrong that he struggles to aim higher. The story centres on a young, intelligent boy, Oskar (Thomas Horn), who may or may not have Asperger's Syndrome ("the tests were inconclusive"), who loses his father (Tom Hanks) in one of the Towers. He and his father were close, and the many expeditions his father sent him on, a set of elaborate treasure hunts riddled with fascinating clues and investigations, are no more.
A year goes by, and finally working up the courage to enter his father's room which has been left untouched by his mother (Sandra Bullock), he finds an envelope with the name "Black" written on it, and inside, a key. Interpreting this as his deceased father's one last expedition set out for Oskar to embark on, he makes it his mission to find out what this key ioens andwhy his father left it hidden for him. His hunt takes him all over New York, as he slowly works his way through visiting every single person in the city named Black, asking about his father. He meets a variety of characters, none of whom can help him regarding the key.
It is easy to understand Oskar's frustrations as his search comes up with nothing. But much of Oskar's quest is not about him finding the lock that fits his mysterious key. Every encounter he has with a different stranger, is somehow a new lesson learned. A long list of fantastic supporting actors surround Oskar in his journey: Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright play a couple going through a divorce, John Goodman is the sympathetic doorman, Zoe Caldwell is the caring and concerned grandmother, Bullock as the mother he doesn't quite appreciate, and most memorably, Max von Sydow as an old renter in Oskar's grandmother's house who he befriends. He doesn't speak, and communicates by writing notes, and with the words 'yes' and 'no' written on the palms of his hands. With absolutely no dialogue, von Sydow enters the film with warmth, immediately befriending Oskar, becoming the only person the young boy can vent his anger to. He encourages Oskar to be more bold in his adventure, for instance convincing him to take the public transport, something Oskar avoided since the 9/11 attack fearing for his safety.
The problem with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is this: it only makes a lasting emotional impact using its supporting characters. Nothing substantial ever materialises from the boy alone, and his quest to finding the right lock for his key loses steam very quickly, because we as the audience is aware that something this far-fetched and unlikely will not have a meaningful answer - and surprise, surprise, the mystery behind the key is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, almost rendering the long build-up useless. Oskar is furiuos when he finds out, and chances are, you will be, too.
Horn, a new discovery in his remarkable screen debut, doesn't have the luck of playing a likable part - often the boy's naive yet relentless obsession is irritating to watch- as he lashes out at those trying to help him. The constant flashback that shows Oskar's painful reaction to his father's death is often too forced for its own good, and it's far from a pleasant experience being repeatedly bombarded with heavy-handed scenes. Oskar is a unique child but the film fails to explore any deeper into the boy's upbringing or surroundings that attempt to explain his character. He had a close relationship with his father. That's it. We don't get a whole lot more than that.
Much like this years string of disappointing films ("J. Edgar," "The Iron Lady" to name a couple), Daldry puts together a wonderful ensemble of actors, but doesn't know quite what to do with all the talented individuals in the cast. It's never enough to assemble a flawless set of actors - you have to know how to use them. There are unquestionably moving moments, thanks largely to Bullock (watch as she steals the final few moments of the film) and Davis (is there a single performance of this woman's career that can be criticised?), but even all of these do not add up to much, leaving the central protagonist with a lame little adventure with hardly any sense of fulfilment. The final scene is an even bigger disappointment, brutally trivialising the rest of the film. We spent two hours watching the trials and struggles of an immature little boy with far too much to handle at his age. But what does this all mean and come down to? Shockinly, not a lot.
If there is one film that doesn't deserve its spot at this year's Oscars, it's this one. It's extremely loud in its unsubtlety, and although at times coming incredibly close to becoming a heart-warming, intelligent post 9/11 offering, it never quite gets it right in terms of balance and narrative coherence. Plus, the many shots of Hanks (who is quickly becoming the go-to person for portraying an average American middle-aged everyman) falling in the sky having jumped from one of the Towers is completely unnecessary. Audience manipulation doesn't come any thicker than this.