I really didn’t know what to expect with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards but meeting with poor reviews from UK critics, it seemed like anything could happen.
It tells the story of nine year old Oskar Schell in the aftermath of his father’s death in 9/11. Having a strong relationship with his father (Tom Hanks) who set him science and exploration missions in Central Park, Oskar is devastated. But hope comes in the form of a key Oskar finds in his father’s closet. This last mission, to find out what the key unlocks, takes Oskar on a journey across New York where he meets hundreds of equally damaged individuals.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is an interesting character. Testing, inconclusively, for Asperger’s syndrome, he has a distinctly philosophical outlook that projects the film’s style. Although Oskar’s heightened intelligence makes him harder to connect with, his corresponding anxieties (for instance, he won’t travel on public transport for fear of terrorist attacks and has panic attacks when faced with bridges) make him more appealing.
Max Von Sydow is mesmerising as The Renter (lodging with Oskar’s grandma), who hasn’t spoken a word since a tragedy he experienced in childhood. The rapport between Oskar and The Renter is heartwarming and breathes life in to the film’s second half. As Oskar’s mother, Sandra Bullock also puts in a powerful performance.
Director, Stephen Daldry (of The Hours, The Reader and Billy Elliot) is creative in telling the story, keeping it feeling fresh throughout its two hours. The camera work and intensity provided to Oskar’s explanation in his first encounter with The Renter, is particularly well done and heightens both tension and emotion. The film has a satisfying ending too, that helps the audience step outside of Oskar’s point of view for the first time.
Even though it’s possible to feel a little manipulated by this film, by its use of the 9/11 tragedy and its repeated emphasis upon damaged characters, it is difficult not to be moved by it. It left me extremely tearful and incredibly, emotionally exhausted.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
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