‘Must see’ movie - Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Academy-award nominated drama by filmmaker Stephen Daldry, is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story, though rooted in the September 11 tragedy, does not focus on the event. It follows an 11-year-old boy who suffers from the loss of his father at the World Trade Center

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a painfully precocious child.  His oddball behavior was encouraged by his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) who sent his son on adventures across New York City to find certain objects and learn about the city’s “secret history”.  Thomas dies in the attack on the World Trade Center, but Oskar is desperate to keep the memory of his father alive

extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close-movie-image-thomas-horn-slice-01One year after 9/11, Oskar finds a key in a tiny envelope in his dad’s closet with the name “Black” written on the envelope.  This leads the hyper-organized Oskar to try and hunt down every Black in New York City and find out if his father left him one last message.  Along the way, he discovers a wealth of personal stories, and befriends a kind but mysterious old man (Max Von Sydow), but ultimately Oskar just wants to hear one last message from his dad

For its first hour, Daldry has to do everything in his power to keep the audience on board for this odd tale.  The biggest challenge is Horn.  He’s not only making his acting debut, but he’s the narrator and talks like an android who doesn’t understand these hu-mans.  He says his mother (Sandra Bullock) had him tested and the results said he was normal, but sometimes tests can be wrong.  You’ll probably hate Schell at the beginning because he’s an overbearing kid who feels the need to regale us with benign trivia

But as the story unfolds, the performance begin s to work.  It’s not because Schell becomes a more relatable character or drops his many, many affectations, but because the performance stays consistent.  We eventually remember that although this is a very strange kid, there are lots of strange kids in the world.  We avoided them on the playground and there’s a reason we never see Oskar hanging out with friends his age.  There’s no way around whether a viewer will find Oskar annoying or not, but eventually we get him as a real person

Daldry also has to justify using 9/11 as a plot point.  Extremely Loud isn’t about 9/11.  It’s about dealing with loss.  So why not have Thomas die in a car crash or some other event that didn’t change the world forever?  Because the story needs to have Thomas leave multiple messages to his family within a short time span and have the audience know how little time he has left.  As we flashback to the morning of September 11th and Thomas speaking with his wife and leaving messages on the home answering machine, we’re heartbroken at how this man is struggling to convince his family—and maybe even himself—that everything will be okay.  Calls like these happened during the morning of 9/11, but Daldry finds a way to make Extremely Loud use them honestly rather than copy-and-paste the tragedy of real people.  We need to see how someone as strange as Oskar deals not only with the loss of his hero, but a loss that unfolded under these specific circumstances

Extremely Loud isn’t contained to the deaths of September 11th because at its core the story is about the sudden loss of a loved one and our desire to find some kind of closure that will never come.  The film’s greatest error is how it eventually brings Oskar to some kind of closure rather than have him accept he’ll always have a wound that will never completely heal.  It’s a crucial misstep for a movie that is all about open-ended stories and how a lack of closure can be both beautiful and devastating

Stephen Daldry accomplishes the Herculean task of making this movie work.  The director can be forgiven for sometimes losing the difficult balance between the universal story of loss and Oskar’s overbearing quirks, but he does share some of the blame for not tightening up the ending.  Screenwriter Eric Roth should have also tried to add a bit more realism to Oskar’s personality, and found a better use for Bullock’s character who only serves to answer the question of how any parent could let their child go on such a dangerous adventure and travel unaccompanied

For the most part, the film is a significant step in trying to use 9/11 in a mature manner rather than using it as a cheap way to your tear ducts, and everything that feels off-putting at the beginning—Horn’s performance, Oskar’s quest, the character’s preciousness,and using September 11th in the first place—eventually feels natural.  If you can stick with the movie through to the end and if Daldry manages to win you over, then Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will tug at every heartstring you have or will ever have

Stephen Daldry’s film meanders at times, but the stellar cast, starting with young Thomas Horn, as well as the weighty nuances, make this a must-see film

Hollywood seems to agree. “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is contending for an Oscar, the entertainment industry’s highest honour. It’s nominated for Best Picture

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