Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the latest drama to use the tragic events of 9/11 as a back story. It doesn’t become another mushy movie sending audiences into instant tears, but it does have its fair share of warm moments. The problem with the film isn’t in the acting, story, camera work or anything like that, the problem lies in the central character; Oskar. He suffers from all sorts of insecurities and fear after the World Trade Center incident on September 11th, 2001 and while that is perfectly understandable, it’s also the thing pushing you away from the characters journey of accepting his father’s death and accepting his mother’s love. The character comes off as stubborn, rude and annoying to be around, causing you to lose his connection with anyone around him because of how he treats the people in his world.
After losing his father on 9/11, Oskar (Thomas Horn) becomes determined to solve a mystery that his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) left behind. A missing key was placed into a vase with the word black written on it and Oskar, hoping to clutch onto those last few minutes of feeling his father’s spirit, goes on a journey across New York City to find where the key fits and to hopefully find a message left by his father.
His journey requires him to interact with hundreds of strangers and dozens of uncomfortable situations, like riding the subway, going in tall buildings and taking the train. All of these day-to-day commutes have become forbidden to Oskar ever since the horrible day that changed his life, but he uses his father as motivation.
Left waiting at home is Oskar’s mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock). She’s in a fragile state of being after her husband died. Oskar clearly connected with him more than her and she’s left trying to express her love to Oskar while trying to get over the death of a loved one. Linda at first may seem like an underdeveloped point in the story, but she comes full circle with her son at the end.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tries its best to capture very personal and tender moments involving 9/11. It’s not your usual heavyweight drama that relies on a thick slap of depression to grab the viewers, instead it relies on a child’s perspective of the event and with this new perspective it brings along lots of humor, understanding and eventual acceptance of things beyond our control.
And where the film shines being different is also where the film struggles giving you a character to connect with. Oskar is the main focus of the film and he often times does things that are generally mean and unacceptable regardless of the circumstances. It’s hard to believe Oskar would act the way he does, especially after seeing him interact with his father, who teaches him the ways of the world. He’s rebellious and angry because of his father’s death, but that doesn’t give him the right to act like a complete idiot.
There were several parts of the film that I was wondering how the kid hasn’t been hospitalized or checked for severe coping disorders or odd brain function, because the things he does come off a bit on the loopy side. From a film standpoint you can say that the purpose of the weirdness in his character is to achieve a unique sense of feeling, but it really comes off as annoying and at times hard to rationalize with.
Thomas Horn plays Oskar and he brings a wild approach to the character. He captures that childlike feeling of wondering around New York City on an adventure and he also balances a lot of pain and hurt underneath it all. 9/11 really took a lot out of him and he shows that with lots of raw honesty that slowly comes out as the adventure comes to an end.
His father is played by Tom Hanks; who amplifies what a perfect dad is supposed to be like. He’s funny, incredibly nice and approachable. He treats Oskar like a person, not a child and he’s always showing Oskar the importance of life, but making Oskar find out it’s true meaning on his own. Hanks is only on the screen briefly at the beginning and throughout the film via flashbacks, but his presence alone makes the adventure that much more meaningful.
Sandra Bullock plays the concerned mother. At first she rightfully mopes around trying to figure out what to do with her life, but as the film progresses, she progresses as a character. Her role in the film doesn’t seem all that important at the beginning, but it helps bring closure to the film at the end.
A few other notable performances are stirred into the mix and while they offer a few laughs there main purpose is only to break up the pacing and bring in some fresh faces. John Goodman, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright are the people I’m talking about and they come in the scenes at just the right moments.
I really wasn’t looking forward to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I thought it was going to be another drama to try and capitalize on the 9/11 incident for quick and shallow tears, but there’s more to be found in the film than initially expected. It’s still not an amazing drama by any means because of Oskar’s lack of respect and in-your-face approach. The direction feels fresh for the most part and all of the characters are given enough to invest into, but the film as a whole feels too stretched out.
It presents a good idea, but it takes way too long to tell it. There are several side stories and specific scenes that serve no purpose to the overall experience and they could have easily been trimmed. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close isn’t extremely long and incredibly boring like I thought it was going to be, but it does wear out its welcome and become another tired drama fishing for emotions by the time it’s done.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – 6.5/10