Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: Eric Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer
Cast: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Zoe Caldwell, John Goodman, Dennis Hearn, Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, Paul Klementowicz, Caleb Reynolds, Julian Tepper, Stephen Henderson, Lorna Pruce, Hazelle Goodman
Synopsis: A nine-year-old amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language
If this movie had nothing to do with 9/11, then would it still be nominated for "Best Picture" for this year's Oscars?
Although this movie has been deemed by many audiences to be one of the most touching films of the year, but I sadly must disagree. Granted, I know I'll get a lot of flak for this, but I can't ignore the painfully obvious here. The sad reality is that "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is not only over hyped, but I doubt seriously it would've gotten nominated for "Best Picture" if it had nothing to do with "9/11."
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the film stinks, or anything of that nature, as it does have it's own moments. The only real problem is that the movie seems to get a lot of it's hype based on the idea that it's connected to "9/11"; when reality is that has almost nothing do with said tragedy. Of course, that would be a great premise to explore in a movie, as "9/11" is arguably the greatest tragedy in North American history. Therefore, the mere concept of portraying a character having to cope with the loss of a loved one, after the horrific "9/11" tragedy, would lead itself into many possibilities for a film. Unfortunately, in this movie, it's a bit of an after thought, and it really has nothing to do with the main focus of the film.
Granted, I know it may seem that way from looking at the trailers alone, but the reality is that the whole "9/11" tragedy is nothing more than a exploitation to draw audiences into seeing the film. I do apologize if I offended anyone with this observations, as I would never make light of "9/11" tragedy, but I'm merely trying to point out how over hyped this film is.
Anyway, before we go even further, I'll briefly explain the story a bit first. Based off the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. The film focuses on a young boy named Oskar (Thomas Horn), who recently lost his father, due to the horrific "9/11" tragedy. Although Oskar seems rather smart for his age, he has a bit of trouble socializing with others, as he believes he might be suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. However, before his father's tragic death, he would often go on elaborate scavenger hunts set up throughout New York city, as his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), was sort of the mastermind behind the whole thing. Although one would have to wonder why a father would want to set up such an elaborate activity, but it's explained that he feels that it not only helps him bond with his son, but it encourages him to interact with others going on these little scavenger hunts to look for clues.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, Thomas dies in the horrific "9/11" tragedy, and this is where the real story begins. After this unfortunate event though, Oskar finds a mysterious key inside his father's closet, so he ends up skipping school, and makes up various excuses to his mom, so he can go off and try to find the lock that fits it. In Oskar's mind, he feels that by finding this lock, he'll somehow remain close to his deceased father a bit longer; possibly even finding a message from him in the process. Needless to say, this little adventure takes him all over New York City, where he meets all sorts of interesting people along the way. Some of them suffered just as much as he did during the "9/11" incident, and some suffered a bit more, but the movie never stops to listen their stories. No, this is Oskar's story, and the movie never stops once to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
As I said earlier, "9/11" was a tragic event in our history, and it's one that could've been used to develop a powerful emotional story here; especially considering you have a protagonist meeting all sorts of people, from different walks of life, telling him their stories. During Oskar's narration throughout the film, he does mention the people he encounters briefly, but it's never in detail. Why is that? After all, if this is supposed to be a movie emphasizing the journey that Oskar goes through to try to reconnect with his deceased father, then why not stop the movie a few times to actually get to know some of the characters he meets along the way. "Forrest Gump" was also a movie that emphasized the journey of a person, but it worked so well because it never treated the supporting characters that Gump met as an after thought. No, they were portrayed as real people, with real problems, and not some cheap plot device to move the story along like "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" chooses to use them.
In the end, this is part of the problem with this movie. Not only does the film rush through potential character developing moments, but it never stops to allow us to get to know the people he meets along the way. Sure, Oskar narrates how much they made an impact on him, but why not show us? Again, this is just a missed opportunity by this film, as there was so much potential wasted here.
Another problem is that even though Oskar's father dies due to the horrific "9/11" incident, it's hardly mentioned at all. Hell, there were even moments that I almost forgot that his father died in that tragedy. Granted, I'm exaggerating with the last statement, but you catch my drift. The point is that they could've easily made this exact same film, with the notable change to how his father dies. Seriously, if you had changed the way Thomas dies to something like dying in a burning building, or in a tragic car accident, then it never would've impacted the film if at all because it's hardly ever referenced; which makes the viewer tend to wonder if the whole "9/11" reference was used merely as a gimmick to draw in audiences, in the first place. Although I've never read the original novel, so maybe the reference is stronger in the book. However, I'm not here to analyze the book, as my business is to review the film, so I can only go off what this movie shows me. Look, I do apologize if I'm coming off as being offensive, but I'd be lying to a lot of people if I didn't point any of this out.
However, does that mean "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is a bad film? Not at all. Sure, it's over rated, and it certainly never deserved the nomination for "Best Picture" for this year's Academy Awards. But, I would hardly call it a bad movie, as it does feature some redeeming qualities as well. One of them is the Oscar nominee, Max von Sydow (simply known as The Renter, in this movie), who doesn't say a word of dialogue throughout the film, but surprisingly he delivers the strongest performance than anyone else in this film. In fact, some of the story's best moments are with him and Oskar searching through the city together. To make matters even more interesting, The Renter has his own unique back story that connects quite well with Oskar; which only makes the story a bit more heartfelt. I won't say what that connection is, as it's one of the best parts of the movie. Unfortunately, he's not in most of the movie, but for the parts he's in, they make the film worth watching for those moments alone.
As for the rest of the cast, I thought Sandra Bullock played her part rather well, but she's rarely featured throughout most of the film; which makes it kind of disappointing. As for Tom Hanks, this is not his best film. If anything, he barely makes any kind of presence in this movie at all. Granted, he comes off as his usual charming self in these types of dramas, but if you're looking for vintage Tom Hanks at his best, then you're not going to find it here.
Overall, I thought "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" was a decent film, but I would hardly call it a great one. If anything, I still stand by what I said earlier that if this movie had nothing to do with "9/11", then chances are it never would've gotten an Oscar nomination. But then again, that's just my opinion on the matter. As I said earlier, it's not a bad movie by any means, and I would still encourage others to see it at a rating of two and a half out of four. However, I would encourage all my readers to wait for this movie to come out on Blue Ray/DVD instead, as this film isn't worth seeing in theaters.