Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close directed by Stephen Daldry; written by Eric Roth and Jonathan Safran Foer (Paramount Pictures, Scott Rudin Pictures, and Warner Bros. Pictures, PG-13, 129 minutes)
Starring Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Max von Sydow.
A Grief Observed
Grief is a difficult concept. It defies reason; it reacts in the visceral regions of the body. Some people immediately return to work in order for the dark feelings to subside. Others need weeks, months, and sometimes years to restore their soul. No matter the method by which people work through pain, grieving is a process we all must endure. With Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, we gain access to a particular way toward managing grief.
Adapted from the eponymous novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close focuses on nine-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn). An amateur inventor, Francophile, and pacifist, Oskar searches for meaning in the wake of the death of his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks).
Thomas and Oskar possess a special bond. Partly due to the void his father (Max von Sydow) left in Thomas’ life, Thomas and Oskar are inseparable. Sparking Oskar’s immense imagination, Thomas tells of New York City’s fantastical sixth borough, which disconnected from Central Park and floated away. To encourage sociability—Oskar always had shy tendencies, Thomas devised a scavenger hunt for Oskar to discover the remnants of the lost sixth borough.
But, this relationship vanishes underneath a toppled skyscraper on September 11. While in a meeting at the top of the World Trade Center, Thomas is situated above the airplane strike zone, marooned and waiting for rescue. With only a phone, Thomas calls his wife, Linda (Sandra Bullock), at work and tries to connect with Oskar at home, assuming classes have been cancelled.
After six messages, Thomas disappears among the thousands who perished in the tragedy. For young Oskar, those messages were marinated in panic, and as a result, fear represents the last connection with his father.
One day while exploring his father’s untouched closet, Oskar finds a key in an envelope labeled, “Black”. Supposing this key represents a clue from his father to a lock owned by a person with the name “Black”, Oskar methodically plans a cross-borough adventure in search of every person named “Black” in New York City.
Afraid of public transportation, Oskar peregrinates from borough to borough meeting new people, explaining his search for meaning after the death of his father, and receiving much affection in return. In an unexplainable way, Oskar believes his last scavenger hunt will bring closure to his grief.
Artful & Grating
Despite the mixed reviews from critics, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close succeeds in its depiction of grief. For the most part, I felt as if the movie artfully portrayed a family coping with the effects of September 11.
However, I found Thomas Horn’s depiction of Oskar rather grating. Of course, I must mention the difficulty of this role. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Oskar in the novel is incredibly intelligent for his years and immensely imaginative. To successfully act this character is a remarkable feat for a person of such a young age. Sadly, Thomas Horn’s attempt falls short. Too often, it felt as if Horn’s performance hindered the power of the story.
Even though the acting performance provides copious amounts of doubt, the themes of this movie are strong. If you desire to watch a unique take on grief and the September 11 attacks, check out Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. If grief isn’t your thing or if you find grating acting unbearable, I suggest you pass on this movie.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Have you seen this movie? What about the book? How do you deal with grief?
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