Feb 29 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
EXTREMELY Loud & Incredibly Close is a drama that follows nine-year-old Oskar (Thomas Horn) as he searches New York for the lock that matches a key left behind by his dad Thomas (Tom Hanks).
Thomas died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack and the film also looks at the relationship between father and son in a series of flashbacks.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a strange film. It’s not awful but goodness does it have a multitude of flaws.
The movie was, controversially for many, on the Best Picture Oscar nominations list and while some of the sentimentality and 9/11 subject matter could be viewed as Oscar-baiting material, otherwise it’s hard to see how it could justify making the Academy’s shortlist.
The biggest problem it has is being burdened with a largely unlikeable central character.
Not that Horn, making his acting debut, is bad. Far from it, he deserves credit for throwing himself into an intense performance that defies his years.
But the straight-talking, fact-spouting Oskar gets on your nerves and his kookiness (talking to gran through a walkie talkie, carrying a tambourine to calm himself) is more grating than endearing.
Another near fatal flaw is the criminally slow pace. The movie clocks in at just over two hours but if 30 minutes had been chopped off we may have been in stronger territory.
The film is based on author Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name, with writer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, Munich) adapting the screenplay for the big screen.
At its heart the story is about father and son dynamics.
Thomas was abandoned by his father. In a horrendous way, so was Oskar who then forms a paternal bond with mysterious old man The Renter (Max von Sydow).
Oskar’s narration is frequently used but giving him words like “multitude” and “reconnaissance” to say don’t do him many favours as this is not a quirky Indie comedy.
English director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Reader) is behind the camera and he makes some wise and not so wise decisions.
A weird quick-cut montage of things Oskar doesn’t like is like something out of a Spike Lee movie and some ‘heaven’s eye’ high camera shots are a less than subtle way of hinting Thomas is looking down on Oskar and his adventures.
There’s some striking images, though. Oskar wears a gas mask on a train and pinches himself to the extend he’s covered in small bruises.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks are always touchy subject ground but Daldry handles it well with Thomas’ calls from the Twin Towers packing a punch without sugarcoating things.
His cast are strong too. Von Sydow was deservingly among the Best Supporting Actor nominees for his affecting, completely silent turn and Sandra Bullock (Linda) is quietly effective in her smallish role.
Things aren’t as mushy as I was expecting, despite frequent use of piano on the score, but then the last 15 minutes piles on the schmaltz to distractingly high levels.
And that’s the problem with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close; it gives with one hand and takes away with the other to amount to a flawed, frustrating whole.
Rating - 5 out of 10.