Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Review
Julian's Rating: 8/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 5.0/10
(2 reviews total)
September 11, 2001 marked one of the darkest, scariest, and most uncertain times in the lives of many Americans, and with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
, Stephen Daldry touches upon such confusion with a powerful story and top-notch performances. While the drama might not take the Oscar race by storm as some expected, it certainly deserves some credit for being a captivating, compelling, and personal look at how one can heal his wounds.
The plot of the film, let it be known, is quite peculiar (at least for a film focusing on 9/11): a strange boy named Oskar Schell loses his father to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One year after the attacks, he finds an item that belonged to his father: an envelope labeled “Black” with a key inside. He embarks on a quest to find what the key opens, and along the way, finds healing and discovers himself.
It sounds corny and very "Hallmark Movie of the Week," but Daldry’s capable direction keeps the film tightly focused on its story despite the possibility for going off on many different tangents. Young star Thomas Horn more than capably carries the film in his debut performance. He’s able to churn out something truly magical with the role, tapping into the oddities, quirks and discombobulated emotions of his character while also compelling on an emotional level.
As if balancing those challenges wasn’t difficult enough already, he’s sharing the screen with acting heavyweights Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks as his parents, Max von Sydow as the Renter, and Viola Davis as a woman he runs into on his strange journey, all of whom are in excellent form as usual. Bullock won an Oscar for playing a concerned mother in The Blind Side
, but it’s her performance here as a grieving maternal figure that’s far more powerful and more deserving of awards recognition. She doesn’t get much time to make an impression, but she’s also wise not to waste any second, convincingly conveying anguish, confusion, and most importantly an unconditional love for her son and late husband.
Davis brings her A-game to all of her roles, and it’s no different with her small role here. However, one wishes that she might have more to do considering her exceptional talent. The same goes for Hanks, who’s able to shine for only a few minutes. Meanwhile, Max von Sydow gives the best silent film performance of the year outside of The Artist
. Simple glances and facial contortions reveal fears and insecurities and point to a truth about the character that isn’t too difficult to ascertain.
While Daldry gets points for keeping everything in check, screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump
, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
) deserves quite a bit of credit for adapting the Jonathan Safran Foer novel into a film that isn’t reckless in its dealings with the devastating event. It treats its characters and "The Worst Day" (as Oskar refers to it) with the utmost respect and reverence. Furthermore, Roth packs the writing with a grounded emotional punch. In the end, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
proves to be a moving and overall worthwhile experience made excellent by a superb debut performance from Horn and stellar supporting work from Bullock, Davis, and von Sydow.
"Stephen Daldry's latest film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
, tries to make sense of one of the worst days—perhaps the "Worst Day"—in American history. It does so through the eyes of a pre-teen boy, who appears to suffer from Asperger's Disease. And what does it ultimately tell us? That New Yorkers are kind and resourceful people? That hands-off parenting is the best way for a child to get through an emotional crisis? That it's OK to go on the swings? Yes, Daldry's film is based on novel—a beloved one by Jonathan Safran Foer—but perhaps the biggest truth to be gleaned from its cinematic interpretation is that not everything on the page needs to make its way onto the screen." Rating: 2/10