By Zach “FilmWizard” Marsh
Just like ‘The Tree of Life‘ before it, ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ has sparked up much controversy. In fact, many people only know about this movie because of its painful background: 9/11. I understand that many are still mourning the loss of their loved ones on as the movie’s protagonist Oskar Shell says “that terrible day.” However audiences should put aside their harsh feelings for two hours and experience a story unlike anything they’ve seen in 2011. (This movie came out in limited on Christmas; it’s just coming out everywhere else on January 20) Stephen Daldry is back after a three/four year absence from the Oscar winning drama ‘The Reader’ and he has Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in great supporting (yes, they’re not THE stars of the movie) roles. I can see where people would call this quote on quote “schmaltzy, manipulative Oscar bait,” because that in some ways is exactly what it is. However ‘War Horse‘ too was “schmaltzy manipulative Oscar bait,” and look how much praise that’s getting. ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ is an emotional train ride with some smiles and some flinches throughout. It is a fantastic movie that deserves to be seen by anyone who isn’t prejudice over people who try to make movies with 9/11 in the context. Even though this was released late last year, this is the first great movie of 2012!
Like I said before, this movie is not a Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock film. The star of this film is newcomer Thomas Horn, who actually got the role of Oskar thanks to a lucky game of Jeopardy during Kid’s Week. If you’re at all concerned if this kid will annoy you at all, let me just tell you that he probably will. Horn’s Oskar is a kid who even before his father died had problems. There’s a part in the movie where Horn says that he was tested for Aspergers, though the tests were inconclusive. As a teenager with Aspergers, I can see the pain in this kid. The only friend Oskar ever had was his father, and I am not over exaggerating. The entire purpose of his journey is because he wants to spend more time with his father, and I don’t blame him.
Because of his life problems, Oskar now (SPOILER) picks at himself all over his body (some of the acts actually seen), isolates himself from his everyday life, and screams/rants because of the tragedy. (END SPOILER) A couple of friends of mine didn’t like the movie because of how irritating Horn is. I don’t blame them for that, but some of the best characters in films really get into your skin and irritate you. I was both irritated and frightened by Oskar, while at the same time pitying his loss. If you can’t handle two hours with this kid, then this movie is not for you. However if you can handle seeing a young boy let his anger out like any mentally disabled child would in a situation like this, then this is the performance of a lifetime.
Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock together are in about 1/3 of the movie. Hanks is the type of father that would just go up to his kid and say “let’s go do something” which I thought was really cool. There is even a situation with Hanks and Horn involving facing a fear, which would seem to be out of place until the last 5 minutes of the film, which actually warmed my heart a bit. He may not be in the movie that much, but Hanks is great in this movie. Bullock is the exact opposite of Hanks and she can’t understand why her son can’t connect with her at all. Bullock’s performance felt very real and authentic to me, because I’ve seen parents like her act out to their children in ways like how they’re shown in this film. I can’t see Bullock getting any Oscar consideration like she did with ‘The Blind Side,’ but she is great in this film. Other cast members include Max von Sydow and Viola Davis are great in their supporting roles, with Jeffery Wright and John Goodman good for the three scenes they are in the movie all together. The entire cast in this movie is great, but you have to withstand Horn in order to get to everyone else.
To be fair, this is my first time seeing a Stephen Daldry film, however I’m glad to have this movie be my first experience with his talent, because it’s a film unlike anything you’ve seen before. Daldry and everyone involved made a bold move making this film, and the end result is a reflection on the problems in our lives and how this mentally dysfunctional kid can somehow relate to our daily lives. Eric Roth, who has written the screenplays for ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button‘ wrote the adaptation for this film, and does it in such a way that it makes you feel like you just woke up from a visceral but life changing nightmare. An aspect I love about this film is that in some of the scenes things get much louder than you’d think and really in your face, putting you into the perspective of Oskar. While it’s not the easiest thing to cope with at first, you soon see exactly why the movie was made like that: because it’s the movie’s title!
‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ may be a ridiculous name, but it all makes sense once you start to think about it. Imagine yourself in Oskar’s situation right now. What would you do? How would you cope with it? Wouldn’t you long for one last minute with your loved one if you had the chance? Every cast member plays their parts beautifully, Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow especially. Eric Roth delivers a great script that is worthy of a nomination if people actually pay attention to it. Daldry knows how to tug on your hearts strings and make you care for these characters, even if the feelings are manipulative. However as I said at the beginning of this review, ‘War Horse’ was a manipulative movie, so why should this be put on the fence? Think of a better reason better than 9/11. Go see this movie as it was made to be seen as: an emotional roller coaster about a boy trying to extend his quote on quote “final 8 minutes with his dad.” This movie is just as controversial as Terrence Malik’s ‘The Tree of Life,’ though this is less vague and confusing. Still, it’s just as moving and provocative as the Palm D’Or winner. Overall, If you can handle two hours with lots of drama and one hell of a messed up kid, as well as a couple of days of pondering exactly what you saw, take this wonderful journey and get ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.’
4 out of 5 stars