Feb 222012
 

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A film of two very distinct parts, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close is not an easy watch, but it is one worth the effort. Check out our review of the Oscar nominated film after the jump.

The film is centered around Oskar (Thomas Horn), a rather unique child who may or may not be suffering from Aspergers Syndrome. Oskar’s father Thomas (Tom Hanks) dies during the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers; and we see that 1 year on Oskar and his mother (played by Sandra Bullock) are struggling to move on with their lives. While snooping in his father’s closet Oskar discovers a key among his father’s things. Oskar then sets out on a journey around New York to discover the lock to which the key belongs – a journey which he believes keeps the connection to his father alive.

Through Oskar’s quest we met people (and a city) who all have their own stories and baggage. It’s very much a city in healing mode – the city itself feels like a character in the film.
The 9/11 baggage is something that this film cannot handle, and it’s ultimately what stops a beautiful central story from being a truly wonderful film. The film flicks between Oskar on his mission , and the day of the attacks. It shows news reports, voicemail messages, missed phone calls, crying relatives, and the general feeling of fear and disbelief.

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The 9/11 scenes are very heavy and emotional – and the film wants the audience to feel it. 9/11 is a difficult enough topic to deal with, without having it shown through the eyes of a 9-year-old child who is frankly quiet insufferable. The use of swelling music and images from 9/11 which arguably shouldn’t be used adds to the overall crushing weight of the film. Although the emotions portrayed in the film may be a realistic and true, they just feel like pure manipulation. Letting people feel on their own terms is far more powerful than demanding that they feel.

Strip away the 9/11 setting and you’re left with a rather beautiful story of a child struggling to deal with the sudden death of his beloved father. Oskar, who struggles to connect with people normally is absolutely lost without the one person he felt truly got him. Going on this seemingly impossible mission is Oskar’s way of extending his “8 minutes” with his father and retaining the connection. The mission is quite fun and filled with moments of real joy and delight. Some of the people Oskar meets are very interesting – they bring out different aspects of his character and add such life to this heavy film.

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Oskar is a horrible and irritating character, and praise must be given to young actor Thomas Horn for his fine performance. If you feel like you want to slap a child at the end of a film, then the actor must have done something right. Bullock and Hanks are both fine in roles that give them quite limited screen-time and scope. Max von Sydow plays “the renter” who lives at Oskar’s grandmothers house. While his character is quite interesting, it’s hard to understand where the Academy Award nomination comes from. A fine performance for sure, but not one of the 5 best in 2011.

At over 2 hours, this is one emotional ride that is filled with massive highs and lows.  Rarely has one film contained both absolutely fantastic, and completely awful components. Ultimately this film is worth the watch because the central story is a universal one – it’s one of struggling to deal with the loss of a loved one and finding the closure you need to move on. Unfortunately, you need to put up with a screaming child and serious emotional blackmail to experience it.

The Facts

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer(s): Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer(novel)
Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock
Runtime: 129 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: February 23rd 2012

  2 Responses to “Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close”

  1. Great review Sam, I really enjoyed the read.

    Whilst we share opposite views about whether the film is worth watching, I do appreciate the balanced argument that you do present.

    It is too bad that a universal story had to be wrapped in something that emotionally blackmailed the audiences to feel something. Also, I liked your assertion that the backdrop of September 11th needs no additional attempts to elicit emotion since it’s a subject which is already emotionally charged.

    Great review.

  2. Thanks Russell. While I totally get why you dislike it, the central story was strong enough to overcome that for me. It’s a pity though – it could have been a truly great film.

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