Published December 23, 2011
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is an arresting film.You will laugh, you will cry, and in the end, you will smile.
Director Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer is bittersweet and powerful, not just because of the memories of September 11th, but because of its overarching theme of overcoming the loss of a loved one.
Ten years out from that dark day the wounds are still fresh, making Daldry’s film a rough ride. Both cast and crew are respectful and dignified in their portrayal of the events of 9/11 and the impact it has on the film’s characters. Sly, intelligent and precocious Oskar (Thomas Horn) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in the World Trade Center attacks. We come to see the inseparable bond father and son had, with Hanks having taught young Oskar about exploration, history and people.
A year later, Oskar finds a key enclosed in an envelope in his father’s closet with only the name Black referenced on the outside. Determined that the key has meaning or is a message from father to son, Oskar embarks on a journey through New York City to find the key’s owner and significance.
Oskar’s journey is poignant, if not a little frustrating. He befriends an elderly mute neighbor, subtly and charmingly played by Max Von Sydow, who assists the boy in his quest. With each new character Oskar interviews about the key, his eyes – and ours -- are opened to a life of beauty, diversity and wisdom.
The performances are fresh and powerful. Thomas Horn, in his film debut, is a tour de force as crestfallen and determined Oskar Schell. For a young actor, Horn carries an impressive range of emotions over two hours. Supporting the boy is Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock as his grief-stricken mother. Bullock has little screen time but she gives the most convincing performance of her career. The film also features John Goodman, Viola Davis and Zoe Caldwell.