Film review: ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’
Wed, Jan 18, 2012 (6:49 p.m.)
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- Directed by Stephen Daldry
- Rated PG-13
- Beyond the Weekly
- Official Movie Site
- IMDb: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
- Rotten Tomatoes: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Even more than 10 years after the fact, 9/11 remains a touchy subject for films. Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close treats the event with a cloying preciousness, using it mainly as a plot device to motivate the emotional journey of irritatingly precocious 11-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), whose father (Tom Hanks, seen only in flashbacks) died in the World Trade Center attacks. Unable to process his father’s death in a normal way thanks to his Asperger’s-like difficulty with human emotions (which comes and goes as the story requires), Oskar instead fixates on finding the lock opened by a key he discovers in his father’s closet, convinced that it will somehow explain everything.
Accompanied by a mysterious, mute stranger (Max von Sydow) whose identity is extremely obvious and incredibly contrived, Oskar wanders New York City on his quest, meeting a cross-section of friendly, ethnically diverse citizens who help him in various ways. It’s all extraordinarily sentimental and manipulative, weighed down by Horn’s mannered, grating performance and incessant voiceover narration.
The tragedy of 9/11 is reduced to an emotional placeholder, something for Daldry to return to whenever he needs to manufacture more easy sympathy. But the more he goes to that well, the more he highlights the film’s craven emptiness, its parade of self-help platitudes posing as the answers to complex problems. Near the end of the film, Oskar’s mother (Sandra Bullock) reveals a secret that illuminates an entire parallel story occurring alongside Oskar’s adventures. Maybe that one would have been more rewarding and less reductive.