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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (DVD)
Member Name: goldenbat666
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (DVD)
Advantages: Fantastic performances, even from the young lead actor
Disadvantages: Too long, too insignificant, it's difficult to figure what the point of this actually was
9/11 is a delicate subject that cannot be taken lightly in fictitious work. Set a foot wrong and you will most likely offend those who were involved in the incident. It remains a fresh wound, and therefore thr subject needs careful direction. And with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Daldry is too careful - and is so worried of doing anything ever so slightly wrong that he struggles to aim higher. The story centres on a young, intelligent boy, Oskar (Thomas Horn), who may or may not have Asperger's Syndrome ("the tests were inconclusive"), who loses his father (Tom Hanks) in one of the Towers. He and his father were close, and the many expeditions his father sent him on, a set of elaborate treasure hunts riddled with fascinating clues and investigations, are no more.
A year goes by, and finally working up the courage to enter his father's room which has been left untouched by his mother (Sandra Bullock), he finds an envelope with the name "Black" written on it, and inside, a key. Interpreting this as his deceased father's one last expedition set out for Oskar to embark on, he makes it his mission to find out what this key ioens andwhy his father left it hidden for him. His hunt takes him all over New York, as he slowly works his way through visiting every single person in the city named Black, asking about his father. He meets a variety of characters, none of whom can help him regarding the key.
It is easy to understand Oskar's frustrations as his search comes up with nothing. But much of Oskar's quest is not about him finding the lock that fits his mysterious key. Every encounter he has with a different stranger, is somehow a new lesson learned. A long list of fantastic supporting actors surround Oskar in his journey: Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright play a couple going through a divorce, John Goodman is the sympathetic doorman, Zoe Caldwell is the caring and concerned grandmother, Bullock as the mother he doesn't quite appreciate, and most memorably, Max von Sydow as an old renter in Oskar's grandmother's house who he befriends. He doesn't speak, and communicates by writing notes, and with the words 'yes' and 'no' written on the palms of his hands. With absolutely no dialogue, von Sydow enters the film with warmth, immediately befriending Oskar, becoming the only person the young boy can vent his anger to. He encourages Oskar to be more bold in his adventure, for instance convincing him to take the public transport, something Oskar avoided since the 9/11 attack fearing for his safety.
The problem with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is this: it only makes a lasting emotional impact using its supporting characters. Nothing substantial ever materialises from the boy alone, and his quest to finding the right lock for his key loses steam very quickly, because we as the audience is aware that something this far-fetched and unlikely will not have a meaningful answer - and surprise, surprise, the mystery behind the key is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, almost rendering the long build-up useless. Oskar is furiuos when he finds out, and chances are, you will be, too.
Horn, a new discovery in his remarkable screen debut, doesn't have the luck of playing a likable part - often the boy's naive yet relentless obsession is irritating to watch- as he lashes out at those trying to help him. The constant flashback that shows Oskar's painful reaction to his father's death is often too forced for its own good, and it's far from a pleasant experience being repeatedly bombarded with heavy-handed scenes. Oskar is a unique child but the film fails to explore any deeper into the boy's upbringing or surroundings that attempt to explain his character. He had a close relationship with his father. That's it. We don't get a whole lot more than that.
Much like this years string of disappointing films ("J. Edgar," "The Iron Lady" to name a couple), Daldry puts together a wonderful ensemble of actors, but doesn't know quite what to do with all the talented individuals in the cast. It's never enough to assemble a flawless set of actors - you have to know how to use them. There are unquestionably moving moments, thanks largely to Bullock (watch as she steals the final few moments of the film) and Davis (is there a single performance of this woman's career that can be criticised?), but even all of these do not add up to much, leaving the central protagonist with a lame little adventure with hardly any sense of fulfilment. The final scene is an even bigger disappointment, brutally trivialising the rest of the film. We spent two hours watching the trials and struggles of an immature little boy with far too much to handle at his age. But what does this all mean and come down to? Shockinly, not a lot.
If there is one film that doesn't deserve its spot at this year's Oscars, it's this one. It's extremely loud in its unsubtlety, and although at times coming incredibly close to becoming a heart-warming, intelligent post 9/11 offering, it never quite gets it right in terms of balance and narrative coherence. Plus, the many shots of Hanks (who is quickly becoming the go-to person for portraying an average American middle-aged everyman) falling in the sky having jumped from one of the Towers is completely unnecessary. Audience manipulation doesn't come any thicker than this.
Summary: A disappointing, frustrating piece of work from a director who has done so much better in the past