Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a dramatic film adaptation of the  New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer (Foer is also the author of Everything Is Illuminated).  The film is directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader), and written by Academy Award winner Eric Roth (Best Adapted Screenplay for Forrest Gump).  It stars Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis (nominated this year for her performance in The Help), John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, and Zoe Caldwell.

For those who don’t know, the film revolves around the events of September 11th.  It amazes me that it has already been 10 years since that horrific day, and that kids are now learning about it in history class along with the Civil War, WWII, etc.  The subject matter may be rough for some, but that is something I will get into later on.  In describing the plot, Warner Brothers writes:

The film is the story of a young boy named Oskar (Thomas Horn) who is convinced that his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city.  Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother (Sandra Bullock) and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet.  His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him.

The original plan for the film was to release it around the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but it didn’t quite happen.  The film had a limited release beginning on Christmas, and a month later it went into wide release.  Despite  some mixed reviews from critics, which I will get into later as well, the film has been nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Max von Sydow.  I think these were two of the biggest shocks on the morning of nominations.

This all-star cast does an amazing job in bringing the pages of the novel to life.  The real stand outs however are Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow.  This was Horn’s first acting job, as he was discovered by the film’s producer when he won on Jeopardy during Kids Week.  He was subsequently offered an audition for the role of Oskar Schell, which he obviously won.  The subject matter he is given and they way he is able to deliver on that emotion is splendid.  In my eyes he delivered one of the best child performances I have seen in a long time, and I was very moved.  He allowed those close to the material to really feel as though they were in his shoes, and I felt a connection.  His scenes with Tom Hanks were so great and they reminded me of the relationship I have with my dad.  The game that they play together (WHICH IS AWESOME) is the reason for the name of the film’s AMAZING title.  (I’m going to hold out on what the game is in the hopes that it will be another reason for you to see the film).  As for Max von Sydow, he delivers a great performance, but it’s one that  I don’t want to give away any spoilers about.  I found the “mystery” to be quite obvious, but maybe that is because I am a screenwriting genius!  His character has taken a vow of silence due to traumatic experiences he has suffered during his childhood so he strictly acts through body language and emotion, which seems to be something the Academy is digging this year.

As I stated earlier, this film has been getting mixed reviews, and I really just don’t know why.  I will go as far as saying it is one of my favorite films of 2011 and 2012 so far.  Maybe some people are turned off by the subject matter or think that the subject matter is just something that is simply easy for them to get emotional about.  Personally, I think that is crazy.   I am from New Jersey, so this event holds a very special place in my heart.  I remember exactly where I was when it happened, as I had just recently started my first year of high school.  I was in shock when I heard what happened as I watched the news that was instantly put on the televisions in our classrooms.  I was then called out of class that day and was taken home by a friend’s mother.  I was in tears as my father worked in the city at the time and was in a meeting right by the attacks.  I remember thinking that if anything happened to my Dad, I wouldn’t know how life would go on, just as Oskar did.  Thankfully he was unharmed and made it home safely by the end of the night.  Unfortunately I know many people who were not as lucky and I don’t like to think about it too often.  There are so many stories where people I personally knew were supposed to be in the World Trade Center that day but weren’t because their meeting got cancelled or they were running late.  All I have to say to that is thank you God.

With all that being said, I will leave you with this: I highly suggest you check this film out.  I loved it so much that I will definitely be reading the book (and I don’t say this too often).  As I stated earlier, the film’s material can be very intense, and it portrays some of the more realistic emotional scenes I have seen in quite some time, so consider yourself warned.  I am not afraid to admit it, I HAVE NEVER cried so hard in a film in my whole life.  I was crying numerous times throughout the film.  While they were mostly tears of sadness and some of joy at times, I did leave the theater all choked up and my eyes may have even been swollen.  The ending left me with such promise and in such a great mood even though I was riding an emotional rollercoaster throughout.  I may be biased, but everything about this film I fell in love with and I can’t wait to watch it again!

5 out of 5 Stars

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Paramount Pictures
PG-13, 129 Minutes

 I would like to dedicate this review to all of those who lost a loved one during the 9/11 attacks.