Although all sincere condolences go to those who have been victims and/or personally affected by the September 11 attacks, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close becomes an excessive 2 hour long film and a literal ‘running around in circles’ kind of movie that never seems to fit together. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name, director Stephen Daldry presents the story through the eyes of 10-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) who – a year passed the attacks – is still mourning the death of his father Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks) who died in the World Trade Center on the worst day. The film requires the audience to think in every single aspect. From the characters to the story to the cinematography, the audience never catches a moment where they can just sit back and just sit. However, Daldry’s work provides many incredibly powerful scenes that will leave you in silence and tears. As well, main actor Thomas Horn (discovered by Foer on ‘Jeopardy Kids!’) delivers one hell of a performance that will leave you hating him, loving him, and, in the end, respecting him.
The story mimics the overdone theme: “We’re never truly alone” and presents a set of characters that are as cliche as the many melodramas and dramas today. But what makes Extremely Loud different from most films is not only what the story technically revolves around (9/11) but the incredible acting done by Horn. The film follows Oskar Schell – an incredibly bright, sarcastic-talking, cynical 10 year old boy who’s flamboyant vocabulary will be making you wonder if his brain is too big for his britches. On a night to night basis, Oskar physically, emotionally, and mentally beats himself up for the death of his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) and takes out his utter frustration at his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) – wishing “it was her instead of dad that died” as she wasn’t home to comfort him the day he came home early from school due to the attacks. In the upper kitchen cabinet, he builds a shrine that represents his dad, which only he knows of.
Knowing he is missing a male figure in his life, Oskar befriends “The Renter” (Max von Sydow) – who lives with his Grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) across his apartment complex. The two join forces in search of something Oskar believes his father wanted him to find before his death. Alongside “The Renter”, Oskar finds more answers than he had hoped for and eventually finds solace and the will to live on.
Horn does an incredible job portraying Oskar, as the main character shows so many different characteristics in the 2 hour time frame. Horn goes from being cynical to vulnerable to accepting to annoying to sympathetic in various scenes that it is hard not to acknowledge his acting ability even though his role in Extremely Loud could leave him typecasted in future roles.
Although the story revolves around the 10 year old New Yorker, it would have been nice to have seen more in-depth personality among supporting characters. In example, rarely will the audience ever be embraced by Thomas and Linda Schell. Thomas is – of course – only seen in Oskar’s flashbacks, but during these flashbacks, not much is really offered or presented from the character; only one-liners or things he did with Oskar are shown. It would have been nice to not only know Dad as a memory but also see more of his personality. As well, even through flashbacks and in present day, Linda is rarely given screen time. Although it’s considered that she is most likely in mourning as the majority of screen time she does get is her in tears, it would have been nice to see more interaction – whether verbal or not – between mother and son.
Alongside stellar acting, the film relies on the beautiful hues and shades of blues that lighten up the cinematography. Without it, the film would have been hard to get through, as it reminded the audience that “we’re never truly alone”, “there is hope after the storm”, and that not everything will have a set answer – the only thing we can do is “live on”.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is no doubt a cliche in its genre. Despite this, the film is a must see for story lovers as Oskar’s story is truly powerful, thought-provoking, honest, and captivating from scene to scene. Although his witty personality could have and should have been toned down several notches, his genuine want to make sense of things in the world will leave you touched and – like everyone else in the theatre – in a loss for words.
The film is Rated PG-13 and runs 2 hours and 9 minutes long.