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“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” – Review (POSITIVE)

February 12, 2012

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” has been the target of a lot of heat lately. Fans of ‘other’ films; such as “Drive”, “50/50”, “Melancholia”, or “Shame”, have felt personal angst that this movie earned a Best Picture nomination over their beloved films. The movie is also earning a mixture of reviews; you either love it or hate it, and sometimes you’re caught right in the middle. I went in with an open mind, and for me I found “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” somewhat adequate.

Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” tells the story about a young boy named Oskar (Thomas Horn), who’s convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city, a message hidden within a key. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. He goes on a journey through the five boroughs of the city that takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him.

Within the story, there’s a special game Oskar & dad would play called reconnaissance expedition, where Oskar would search for something of historical significance that dad would assign him. Oskar’s dad has told the story of the mysterious sixth borough of New York. Oskar was given the ‘mission’ to find the lost borough just before his father’s untimely passing. You could say that the sixth borough represents a sense of relief, forgiveness, loss, happiness, or personal nirvana, and in some ways all of those are true. There’s an interesting parallel between the mysterious six borough’s and the six voicemail messages Oskar’s dad leaves behind, the sixth message, much like the sixth borough is best kept as a mystery for all the world except for the only person who knows about it. Oskar’s dad knows about the sixth borough, and Oskar is the only one who knows of the final message his dad leaves him before the World Trade Center collapses.

The film isn’t really a 9/11 movie, it’s not about ‘the worst day’, as Oskar calls it, it’s about the day after, and the following after that. New York was in such an emotional collapse; people were dealing with the grief in many hard ways. Oskar is a child who can only make sense of the world through observation, the facts, and never the miracle or faith, so for him, this personal mission was his only fact based way of coping with the loss of his father. That’s what made the book so moving; the movie accomplishes that for the most part. There are some certain flaws to the film, but not enough to hurt it as an unwatchable film.

Performance wise; you’ve got Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright, and newcomer Thomas Horn giving some terrific performances. Wrights role is perhaps the best although without giving too much away, you won’t see his importance till the end of the film, but it’s truly a gut-wrenching scene. Horn was good, a little too weird for his own at times, but the character called for it. I did have a problem with a few out of nowhere lines of dialogue that he says. For example, the scene where he meets Viola Davis’ character, he asks her if he can kiss her…awkward? But, for a first time child actor, the kid exceeds more than what I was expecting. Max von Sydow plays a mute old man that Horn’s Oskar befriends, I can see why critics liked him in this role, and it’s hard to not like him, but I still would’ve preferred Albert Brooks as Best Supporting Actor nominee rather than Sydow, no offense Max, but Brooks left a bigger impression on me last year in the Supporting role of 2011 films.

My main beef with the movie are the other actors who appear in the film that are heavily underused. John Goodman is so brief that it almost felt pointless to have him in the bill, you could’ve given that role to a complete unknown and it would’ve been better. Sandra Bullock was just ‘meh’ at times, she didn’t leave much of an impression. Lastly, Viola Davis I think falls into the same pitfall as Goodman, again hire an unknown and I think it would’ve worked out better. Director, Stephen Daldry did some interesting choices for the film, the camera work, the editing style, were all fascinating, but for a story like this it almost made the movie look a bit pretentious at times.

Overall, yes there are some minor flaws in the film, but its structure is quite strong and still has some great actors in front of it leading to a strong well-rounded conclusion. I don’t think the movie will leave you feeling empty inside, but be sure to bring a tissue, because “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is a rough tale to tell.


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