If dabbling in the stock market is your idea of a good time, then invest the farm on Kleenex tissues. Movies like Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which tackles the delicate issue of 9/11, may require the whole box ... so bring two. The film opened in a limited release on Christmas day, allowing it to qualify for February's Academy Awards. With Daldry's trio of Best Director nominations since 2001, all signs pointed to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as a serious Oscar contender. However, opening to mediocre reviews and a strong field of competition including The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo, Daldry's latest work is becoming quite the long shot.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows a young boy named Oskar Schell (played by Horn). Sadly, Oskar loses his best friend and father Thomas Schell (played by Hanks) on what he frequently refers to as "the worst day" (the 9/11 attacks). Therefore, when Oskar finds a key in his father's untouched closet, he takes his only clue and ventures through the 5 boroughs of New York City in order to find its matching lock. Hoping for one last message from his deceased father, Oskar's journey teaches him more than he ever expected.
First and foremost, it's imperative to commend director Stephen Daldry on the respectful manner in which he addresses the tragic events of 9/11. Over a decade later, and the scars still feel as fresh as the wounds our nation felt on that sorrowful day. I must also warn that certain sound bites and occasional on screen imagery in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are difficult to bear. Even if you're overly anxious to see the film, only do so if you're emotionally ready to stare this tragic event in the eyes.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a jumbled journey through the mind of a troubled boy. Thomas Horn is downright excellent in his first major motion picture release. The gifted young actor plays his character to perfection and it allows the audience to view one of our nation's greatest tragedies through the eyes of the innocent. However, something is certainly off with Oskar's character. Undiagnosed throughout the film, Oskar clearly has some form of inability to socialize. Loud noises and other various things frighten the boy beyond belief. However, through his adventures around the 5 boroughs of New York City, we see Oskar's transformation into a sociably fearless young man. In addition to Thomas Horn's breakout performance, veterans Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks sustain their unmatched talents. With their limited amount of face time on screen, both of these superstars make the most of every scene and provide the film with a stronger sense of credibility. Max von Sydow's performance included, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is brilliantly acted on all accounts.
Albeit it's strong cast, Daldry's latest effort struggles to resonate with audiences. The film's sentimental intent inevitably touches each member of the viewing audience, yet Oskar's character leaves much to be desired. Having nothing to do with Horn's acting ability, Oskar's character can be irritating, overblown, and irrational (like most 9 and 10 year old children). Centering a two hour long story around someone with such characteristics can be a difficult task, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close fails at the attempt. The film begins well and ends wonderfully, however its second act wears thin rather quickly. In the midst of the boy's journey, the film becomes a jumbled mess and manages to lose sight of its purpose. But once the movie regains its focus and gets back on track, the resolve is rewarding, heartfelt, and certainly worth the wait.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a solid film but nowhere near the Oscar contender some imagined it would be. It's intriguing story and phenomenal cast thrust the film beyond the realm of mediocrity. Yet, the feature's sentimental approach wears out quickly and results in a very flawed and drawn out middle portion of the film. Ultimately, the ending wraps up in tear-jerking fashion and leaves a small sense of fulfillment.