I saw the trailer for this movie a while ago, and ever since then I had been dying to see it. However, I don’t think it has lived up to my expectations.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (I have to say, that title is a mouthful) is a film adaptation of a book by the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. It was released in early 2012 and directed by Stephen Daldry. It is about Oskar Shell (Thomas Horn), a child who tries to stay connected with his father (Tom Hanks) who died in 9/11 by searching for the lock of a key that he found in his father’s closet.
This was one of those films that after viewing it, I wasn’t really sure about my opinion. In looking up the critical reception, I have discovered a huge disconnect of opinion regarding this movie. It has been hailed as a touching story to condemned as exploiting an American tragedy for Oscar baiting.
Either way I think the film does have some issues. First off, I find it incredibly unrealistic. The premise of the film is that a boy is going on this journey interviewing all these people in New York to find the lock that fits this key. I don’t think any competent mother would ever allow her child to do such a thing. I certainly would not. Oskar’s mother is played by Sandra Bullock, and she tries to explain it by saying “I was scared, but I knew you had to go on this journey.” Yeah, and I’m sure if your child was cleaved in bits with an ax and then thrown into the Hudson you’d feel good about yourself.
And there were quite a few moments of the film that featured hysterical screaming, and it made me feel as if this movie is portraying what the film makers think grief is like, but they executed it in a very over the top, cliché way that I could not connect with.
That said, I don’t have a problem with the subject matter. This is the first film that truly addresses the issue of how 9/11 has affected children. Considering that fact, I don’t think I would label this movie as exploitive. Oscar bait? Maybe, but does anyone make a film ever thinking, “I do not want this film to get an Oscar! I am not a sell out! The Academy Awards is just another opiate of the masses and I will not conform!”?
I also really enjoyed Max von Sydel’s performance. He acted as The Renter, a strange old man who lived in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment and had lost his ability to speak when he suffered trauma during WWII. While he could not speak, you were always very clear about his emotions. Or maybe I just ejoyed watching him because he didn’t have the ability to scream so he couldn’t be over the top like everyone else in the movie.
So all in all, I give Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a 5. Although as someone who studied English in college, I have to announce that I loved the scene in which Oskar and his father had oxymoron battles.