Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

extremely loud and incredibly close poster 2011 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Early attempt to look at 9-11, Max von Sydow

Feels exploitive at points, tries too hard to be sentimental

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Studio:  Warner Bros./Scott Rudin Productions/Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 15, 2011 (Premiere)/December 25, 2011 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

extremely loud and incredibly close key oscar schell thomas horn

The key to a mystery

On the “Worst Day”, Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) life was changed forever.  His father Thomas (Tom Hanks) was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9-11, and the lives of Oskar and his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) crumbled.  A year later, Oskar finds a mysterious key in an envelope labeled “Black” in his father’s possessions, and Oskar is determined to find the lock where the key fits.  As he searches the city of New York and its boroughs for the mysterious “Black”, he meets other people who are struggling with life like him.  When he meets grandmother’s mysterious mute renter (Max von Sydow), he hopes the man can help him unlock the mystery of his father’s key and his pain.

Directed by Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a drama.  The movie is an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel.  The movie was met with mixed reviews but received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow).

extremely loud and incredibly close world trade center twin towers 9-11

Using 9-11 feels a bit icky

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is one of the first 9-11 stories to surface.  It is both an examination of the event and what it means to the people who directly affected by it.  While it is an interesting approach to the story, it also sometimes feels a bit exploitive.

To use 9-11 as a plot device with fictional characters leaves a bit of a sour taste.  It is intrinsic to the plot and the story has value, but it also is a story built on the real death and grief of people.  It is about people trying to make sense of something that makes no sense and the death of people who weren’t guilty of anything, but there were real stories that could have been told…while Oskar could have been a real character, he isn’t.

Thomas Horn plays the headstrong (but confused) kid on the autism spectrum.  He has to carry the heavy movie which is tough.  Tom Hanks plays the deceased “perfect” father who has a mystery surrounding him.  Sandra Bullock is a bit of a throwaway character for the first part of the movie but is redeemed at the ending.  The movie also has small roles by Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, John Goodman, and Stephen Henderson.  The scene stealer is the exasperated Max von Sydow who plays a mute character who tries to help Oskar make sense of everything…and realizes he can’t.

extremely loud and incredibly close oskar renter max von sydow thomas horn

So…hang out with random kids often?

The movie is soaked in New York City as both a mythic place and a real place.  Oskar journeys all over the city alone (which is terrifying), but he isn’t alone at all.  It is a story of New York as a family and a family that is suffering.  This is where the film is honest and good.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is one of those movies that is a bit of a struggle to watch because it brings back old memories of a bad time.  It gets a bit darker than you might expect and sometimes is intentionally callous through Oskar’s perceptions of things.  It tries really hard and in many ways it tries too hard to tug at the heartstrings…and in tugging, it feels exploitive.  Those memories shouldn’t be forgotten by anyone like Oskar’s vice-like memory, but Oskar isn’t real.  It feels a bit of a fraud…like Oskar’s search for the Sixth Borough.

Related Links:

The 84th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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