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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Genre Drama
 
Review:

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a miracle. Why? There's no other way you could explain it being nominated for a Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards. Grant 2012 hasn't been the strongest year for Hollywood with only a handful of truly excellent films, but let's call it what it is... extremely long & incredibly irritating.

Stephen Daldry is a fine director, an auteur who invests a couple of years in each of his films. He's been nominated for an Oscar for Best Directing for every one of his feature films: Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader... except Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Perhaps this accounts for all the award season confusion?

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell, who after losing his father in the September 11 attacks, goes on a search to find a lock that will fit the key his father left behind. Hoping to discover a message from his father, Oskar goes on an adventure in which he meets a number of people who aren’t so different from him.

The film is endowed with the acting talents of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock as you'll notice from the billing on the movie poster. However, this is simply a marketing ploy as the actors play the lead's parents, making several brief appearances throughout the movie and relying on credibility over ability.

The real "star" is Thomas Horn, who dominates almost every scene. Horn plays Oskar Schell, a young boy with autistic tendencies and a tambourine. The kid shot to fame after cleaning up at a Jeopardy! game show during kids week and speaks several languages including: Croatian, Spanish and Mandarin. He's as smart as a whip and this really translates well in his performance.

However, the combination of Horn's sharp mind and his character is unlikable. We're drawn to him for the vulnerability of his loss and autism, but there's a deep-seated arrogance and pretentiousness that rises up within him. Most kids have an innate innocence, but this character seems to have been reincarnated - making the experience alienating and quite irritating.

Since the majority of screen time features Horn, it becomes an altogether unsettling experience. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close relies so heavily on the whizkid that even an Oscar-nominated supporting performance from Max von Sydow, and Wednesday performances from Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock do little to redeem the film.

Max von Sydow depicts an old man sentenced to silence after an event leaves him mute and defines "strong silent type" in the process. Writing his lines on paper allows him to focus on the physical side of his performance and he's able to convey great depth and power in his facial expressions, an antithesis in contrast Oskar.

Oskar's quest to discover what message his father left him becomes the emotional currency in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Harping back to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and his father's death provides a collective stream of emotion for each of the character's to draw on for state-of-mind, meaning and range of performance.

Horn is emotionally stunted by his autism, making his adventure a journey of self-discovery and a deeply cathartic expression of love for his deceased father. As you'd expect there are some moving scenes involving the boy's family and their reactions to the loss of a much-loved man. However, the political motivations aren't fully explored and Daldry uses the event to create a taut emotionally-charged atmosphere.

The cinematography is beautiful, intricate and stimulating as we journey with Oskar through the subways, bustling streets and sidewalks of New York. The camera eye is up-close and sentimental with Oskar's trinkets, systems and shrines reminiscent of the movie, Amelie.

We're also introduced to sound in a story that parallels August Rush for theme. In August Rush, Freddie Highmore played a modern day Oliver Twist seeking his parents using the medium of sound. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close bounces the sound of the city off the audience, giving Oskar a tambourine to help express his emotional fragility amid the clambering of a noisy, dangerous environment.

Unfortunately, without the magic realism of August Rush, this story is just too convoluted to suspend this reality. No mother in her right mind would knowingly permit a pre-teen boy on a daily New York City walkabout to visit strangers from a phone book on his own. Perhaps this wouldn't have been so jarring if they'd made him a runaway?

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a watchable tearjerker with strong production values, crisp audio-visual stimulation and enough emotional material to keep you intrigued. However, it could have been cut down by 20 minutes, would have benefited from a more likable lead, less jagged edges and a more realistic view on life in the Big Apple.

The bottom line: Disconnected


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