With a track record like director Stephen Daldry’s, it was no surprise how much Oscar talk surrounded this film. Usually, that annoys me because this movie hadn’t been seen by anyone, yet they were already making Oscar predictions. But like I said, Daldry is no one to underestimate (He was Oscar nominated for Best Director for every movie he has made so far). His latest, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is unsurprisingly phenomenal.
Adapted from the Jonathan Safran Foer book, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows Oskar Schell, a very inquisitive young boy who finds a mysterious key in his father’s closet. His father, played by Tom Hanks, was a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In order to come to terms with his father’s death, Oskar sets out on a mission to find the lock that the key belongs to, hoping that it will unlock a message from his father.
Oskar is an interesting kid, easily different than the rest. Right from the start, his relationship with his father is revealed with Oskar explaining the reconnaissance missions his father would set him on. It’s immediately evident how close they are, so it’s no surprise how devastating it was for Oskar to lose his father in a tragedy like that. Oskar’s grief is overwhelming, and it’s impossible not to feel for him. When he finds the key, he is given a shred of hope, and that boy hangs on to it so tight. I found myself being almost as desperate as he was to find what lock the key fits.
September 11th is a big part of the movie. Flashbacks to that day filter throughout the film, and for the most part, I think it was handled with the appropriate amounts of sensitivity and realness. However, there are a couple particular images that are a bit… hard to take in. But they are so characteristically what Oskar would say or do, that its slight insensitivity shouldn’t be taken offensively. Although, I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone who lost someone on 9/11. The movie’s emotion really hits you in the gut; I wasn’t exaggerating about Oskar’s pain.
Newcomer Thomas Horn was fantastic as Oskar. He convincingly played all of Oskar’s eccentricities and emotions. He was the real lead of the film and knocked it out of the park. Tom Hanks’ and Sandra Bullock’s roles are smaller than the trailers make them seem to be. But they played their parts well as Oskar’s parents. The father-and-son scenes spoke volumes, and a particular scene between Oskar and his mother (Bullock) was very intense and heartbreaking. Max von Sydow is great as the man renting a room in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment who joins him on his journey to find the lock that fits the key. Viola Davis, Jeffery Wright and John Goodman also star and play their small parts well. It pretty much goes without saying that this is Thomas Horn’s movie.
Daldry put together an excellent film. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had the appropriate mixture of comedy and emotion. Daldry isn’t afraid to make you go there, to feel that kind of grief, especially one that was caused by a horrific moment in fairly recent history. As far as its Oscar chances, I don’t know. This movie isn’t a game changer, but I particularly think it’s exceptional enough to be a contender. Whether or not, it wins, gets nominated, or snubbed, it’s one of my favorite movies of 2011, and I definitely recommend it to those interested in seeing it.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close opens Christmas Day in select cities. Its wide release is January 20, 2012.