Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Posted: February 20, 2012 in Film reviews

Directed by Stephen Daldry. Starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Thomas Horn.

This film seems to have had a bit of a kicking from various critics and having seen it, I’m not quite sure why. Should it have been nominated for an Oscar, probably not. Is it a bit of a button pushing weepie at times, well yes. Does it feature a precocious older-than-his-years child of the kind who probably only exist in films? Again yes. Are any of these factors reason for hating it? Not really.

Oskar dotes on his dad, played in flashback by Tom Hanks, who encourages his quirky nature and teaches him to treat life as an adventure. On 9/11 however, Oskar’s father is on the hundred and something floor of the World Trade Centre. Frightened of the world even before terrorists flew planes into buildings, Oskar (who it’s implied may well be borderline aspergic) can’t handle his father’s death, and increasing draws away from his mother (an excellent Sandra Bullock). When he finds a mysterious key in his father’s effects, Oskar resolves to find out what it opens. Since the only clue is the name ‘Black’ printed on the envelope, he decides to visit everyone in New York called Black. Joining him on his search is his grandmother’s mysterious lodger. I won’t reveal if Oskar discovers what the key opens, but clearly it’s a metaphor for coming to terms with his father’s death, and making sense of something that can never make sense.

Oskar is by turns annoying and endearing, and particularly in the first half is mainly just annoying, but it’s hard to deny it’s a powerful performance by young Thomas Horn and thankfully he does become more likeable as the film progresses, and in particular he works well with Max Von Sydow, the veteran actor practically stealing the film without saying a single word.

On the negative side Oskar’s quest takes a while to get going, and too many of his adventures either fly by or happen off camera. And the spectre of 9/11 feels a bit uncomfortable as a backdrop given it happened only a decade ago. This said it’s hardly a syrupy feel good film, and at times delves into darker waters when Oskar screams at his mother, or self harms. It’s sad, and at times quite funny, and everyone in it does a great job, with perhaps only Hanks losing out because he’s given little opportunity to imbue his character with any real flaws, and so comes across as the kind of perfect dad/husband that again doesn’t really exist outside of film. This seems a shame as Hanks could probably have done a better job if given the chance, but probably makes sense if we’re seeing an idealised version of him from Oskar and his mum’s perspectives.  In contrast Jeffrey Wright gets a nice cameo as a decent yet clearly imperfect man who ends up coming across as a more rounded and realistic character than Hanks in just a few minutes.

This isn’t likely to be a film I’ll go back to, but I enjoyed it far more than I expected it to, and far more than the critical hype would have you believe. 7/10

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