Movie Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Rating: PG-13 (language, some disturbing material, emotional material)
Release Date: January 20, 2012
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Stars: 3 out of 5
Films have already been made chronicling the events of 9/11. Most of them focus on the day itself or what happened directly in the aftermath. Few of them have ever focused with such precision on one single family and how they were changed irrevocably by their loss that day. 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' tells the tale of one such family.
Young Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn in his debut role) lost his father Thomas (Tom Hanks), who worked in one of the World Trade Center towers that day. Thomas is shown in intermittent flashbacks having plenty of quality time with both Thomas and his wife Linda (Sandra Bullock).
Oskar is very smart and quite precocious. He may also have Asperger's, a condition where he has trouble with social skills. It doesn't help that he has all but completely withdrawn from Linda, who he resents for being the surviving parent. More than anything, Oskar misses his father and the "missions" he used to design for him. These missions were scavenger hunts that appealed to the intelligence and curiosity that burns inside of Oskar. Linda has no interest in continuing the tradition.
One day Oskar finds an envelope that has a key inside of it. Desperate to reconnect with his dad, he decides it is one last mission designed by him. The envelope is labeled "BLACK" in capital letters. Assuming it is a last name, Oskar sets out to visit each of the 400+ people in the phone book with the last name Black.
He sets out by himself on the streets of New York City with nothing but his tambourine for protection. He comes across Abby Black (Viola Davis) and her husband William (Jeffrey Wright) who are going through a bad patch in their marriage. Abby invites Oskar inside their home to tell his story. She is so touched that she vows to help him find the lock that will be opened by the mysterious key.
Several more visits to people with the last name Black occur with varying degrees of success. Interspersed throughout these visits are more flashbacks of Thomas and Oskar together along with several voicemails he left while trapped in the tower. The sound in his voice of a man trying to say goodbye to his family while resolved to his inevitable fate is heart-wrenching. Hanks may have only a handful of scenes in the movie but they are among the most emotional.
By the third act of the movie, there likely won't be a dry eye in the audience. Oskar comes across an elderly man known simply as The Renter (Max von Sydow), who only communicates through written notes. As he begins to open up to the irresistible Oskar, it is revealed that he may have a bigger connection to the Schell family than anyone anticipated.
'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' weaves a tangled tale based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is very emotional, so be prepared to cry. The performance by newcomer Thomas Horn as Oskar is nothing short of a revelation. The movie sits squarely on his shoulders and he delivers beautifully. That is no small feat considering his parents are played by a pair of loveable Academy Award winners. He more than holds his own next to these acting heavyweights.
The movie does resolve some of the problems that Oskar and Linda have, so in that way it is satisfying. Of course, the audience knows that their lives will still never be the same. The ending really isn't the point here, though. The point is the emotional journey and heartbreaking portrayal of one family's loss and how they finally begin to cope.