Friday, 7 June 2013

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) - ★★★½

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: Eric Roth (Screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (Novel)
Stars: Thomas Horn, Max Von Sydow, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Zoe Caldwell

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close didn't manage to pull at my heartstrings. What it did do however was make me extremely intrigued in the story of an autistic boy on a mission. Everything with Thomas Horn and Max Von Sydow was absolute gold. The chemistry these two had was beyond words. I found myself absolutely enthralled in the adventure of Oscar (Thomas Horn). It seemed like the film was split into two different sections. One was the awesome tale of an autistic kid trying to keep the memory of his father alive, and the other is the sadness of the 9/11 terrorist attack. While the story of this kid's struggle is amazing, the film falls flat whenever they focus on 9/11.

It follows the story of Oscar (Thomas Horn), an autistic young boy whose father (Tom Hanks) dies in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. After finding an envelope with a key inside of it, he believes his father left it there for a reason. That is to find the box that the key opens, and 'Black' is the only clue there is. So Thomas develops a plan that leads him to the addresses of every person with the surname 'Black' in Manhattan, hoping that one of these people may have the box that the key opens.

This movie is more about Oscar's battle to accept the death of his father than it is about 9/11. THAT'S A GOOD THING. Everything to do with this kid's adventure was downright awesome. I loved the way director Stephen Daldry highlighted Oscar's battle with autism and having to deal with the challenges that Manhattan presents. There was one scene were he describes everything that freaks him out, such as the noises, the people and the unsafe structures. To me, this was an absolutely spectacular scene that truly does justice to the challenges that autistic kids face in society.

The magnificent Max Von Sydow
Without a doubt, the highlight of the film was the adventures with Oscar and an old man he knows as The Renter (Max Von Sydow). Spoiler Alert. I think it's implied that this old man is his grandpa. Von Sydow was terrific as a mute old man that just wants to help his grandson find peace. Without him, this movie wouldn't be half as good.

Thomas Horn gave one of the greatest performances of 2011. He was robbed of an Oscar nomination for Best Actor that year. There was such powerful emotion in this character, but it was always realistic. I felt a lot for this little boy, even annoyance and disdain, but always I came back to liking him. It really is one of the greatest child performances of all time! He made the movie, I couldn't possibly imagine another child in the role of Oscar. Here's a fun fact! Thomas Horn won the children's edition of Jeopardy in 2010, which most likely led him on the road to stardom.

Unfortunately, whenever this movie got sentimental about 9/11, it just looked soppy.

We'll have to wait a few more years until another brave director tries to make a true tear-jerker out of the terrible event. Bullock and Hanks give fine performances, but they never truly grab my emotions the way they should. I think it's because the whole 'loving family' scenes were shot through such rosy spectacles that it looked a bit too melodramatic.

The worst thing about this film is that you could cut the last half an hour off completely and still not miss anything. I feel like the last chapter of the film was there to make us cry or feel uplifted, but it did neither for me. Everything that happened with Sydow and Horn was so good that the scenes that came after it just looked shabby in comparison. I feel like a lot of editing could have made this movie a masterpiece.

For the most part, I loved Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. My favorite aspect of the film was the focus on autism and the relationship between Oscar and his grandpa. The 9/11 parts could have been done a lot better, but personally I'd prefer if they weren't in there at all. I'm not saying that you can't truly capture the emotion of that horrible day, but this movie failed at doing so. Even though it wasn't a tear-jerker, I loved the story and the journey of Oscar. It's a good movie that critics have undervalued.

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