Movie: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Cast: Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow and Viola Davis
Director: Stephen Daldry
You would never know by watching Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, that this was Thomas Horn’s first starring role. In fact, it’s the 13 year old’s only role to date and just might be up for an Oscar next month. (Ironically, his character’s name is Oskar. Coincidence?) Horn was spotted by Hollywood after becoming a champion on Jeopardy! during Kids Week.
Despite the fact that Horn is the movie’s main star, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not a children’s movie and how a movie about 9/11 could be made palatable is an achievement in itself. This is an artsy movie that is similar in tone to last year’s children’s angst film, Where the Wild Things Are.
Horn plays an 11 year old boy who, may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome, is incredibly bright and literally afraid of everything. He is “incredibly close” to his father, (Tom Hanks) who creates games and adventures for his son. His father seems to the only one who “gets” him. He is as close to his father as he is distant to his mother (Sandra Bullock) who is worn out by this kid.
The story takes place a year after the 9/11 attacks, where his father died in the World Trade Center. Oskar is going through some of his father’s things and discovers a key and he is convinced that his father meant for him to find it and find out which lock it opens. He knows in his heart that somehow the answer will keep him close to his deceased dad.
The movie plays out as a mystery and from Oskar’s point of view. The story has many layers revealing one thing at a time that explains why Oskar is the way he is, and why he does odd things. It features some fun and interesting characters too. There is his grandma (Zoe Caldwell), his father’s mother, who lives across the street from Oskar. She keeps a walkie talkie beside her bed just in case Oskar should need her. Then there is “The Renter” (Max von Sydow) who lives with his grandma. He doesn’t speak and only communicates by writing notes or showing his palms that say “yes” and “no.” John Goodman plays Stan the Doorman (who ironically is never standing by the door) in a role that is too small for this man’s talent.
It’s a bit of a struggle to watch this film. Oskar isn’t a very likeable kid and is quite rude to some adults, but you feel for him just the same and just want him to be happy. The strain of his relationship with his mother is tough to watch too, but overall, the film isn’t depressing, it’s interesting. You also have to have the right frame of mind while watching this movie. The story is far-fetched, but if you watch it as if you were Oskar, it will make more sense. The ending makes it all worthwhile. There are no weak spots with this film. Each actor brings a special something to the story. Sydow is especially fun to watch and Bullock shows some of her best acting yet.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott, The Reader, The Hours) who just might be able to add a fourth to this list. It is based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name.