Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow
Running Time: 2 hrs 9 mins
Release Date: January 20, 2012 (Chicago)
PLOT: A young New York boy (Horn) seeks to solve the mystery of a blank key left behind by his father (Hanks) who died on 9/11.
WHO’S IT FOR?: If you still consider Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” to not be a stinky serving of wet cheese, then you might fall for Extremely Loud. Those curious about a thoughtful narrative concerning New Yorkers and their post-9/11 attitudes should search far and wide for Margaret, starring Anna Paquin and featuring Matt Damon.
EXPECTATIONS: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had avoided the trailers long before people were tossing around the phrase “Oscar bait.”
Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell: Horn is the type of discovery that you want to return to the store minutes after being with him. He’s a walking endurance test to your sensitivities – Oskar might have Asperger’s, but does that mean you can’t hate him? Horn’s character plays a great deal in making this movie irritating, especially with how he handles certain moments that will have you telling the screen this kid is an “idiot.” Nonetheless, I failed the endurance test. Oskar, with his yammering, jingling, and whining, is insufferable.
Tom Hanks as Thomas Schell: However involved his character may be with the highly ugly elements of this story, Hanks’ general charisma that makes him likable (it certainly helps Larry Crowne) in flashbacks between himself and his on-screen son. Hanks nearly takes his character to the Perfect Mystical Dad edge, but stops. Unfortunately, Extremely Loud shoves him off.
Sandra Bullock as Linda Schell: Because of poor communication between her and Oskar, Bullock’s character isn’t on screen much until the third act. When she does re-appear, with a big revelation in tow, you’ll wish she had stayed miserable and quiet as she had been in the earlier scenes in the film.
Max von Sydow as The Renter: Aforementioned poor communication gets a whimsical walking metaphor with von Sydow’s character, who doesn’t talk, but speaks with “Yes” and “No” written on his hands. Amongst the movie’s events, von Sydow’s performance gets washed away by the sappiness, even when he reveals his own secret comes to surface. His appearance in Flash Gordon as The Emperor Ming will be remembered more than this.
TALKING: Oskar’s voice-over narration is overwhelming to the audience, as is almost any moment in which he opens his mouth. The kid constantly has freakouts, and we are subjected to hear every last thought from each of these moments.
SIGHTS: Extremely Loud features imagery of September 11th that will feel uncomfortable, unnecessary, or more likely, both. It shows a wide variety of New York neighborhoods, but the entire movie fails to capture any distinct, poignant spirit of the city which Oskar’s life events so heavily evolve around. The movie’s fascination with the city’s five boroughs doesn’t lend itself to a cohesive soul. Manhattan, this is not.
SOUNDS: Alexandre Desplat contributes a score that has Oskar’s wonderment, and the somberness that the movie is ultimately aiming for. Like Clint Eastwood’s obnoxious spurs in Two Mules for Sister Sara, Oskar insists on carrying around a tambourine everywhere he goes. It is constantly jingling throughout the movie. “Necessary characteristic” or not, it gets very old, and very fast. Why couldn’t his “comfort instrument” be a harmonica?
BEST SCENE: There’s only one scene in which I “felt” this movie, but it wasn’t the good type of feeling. When Daldry times the tower collapse to Oskar’s collapse to the floor, I felt incredibly manipulated – like Gina Carano from Haywire had given me a sucker punch to my emotional nads.
ENDING: Linda connects with her son, and Oskar finds out that the key wasn’t all that important to begin with.
QUESTIONS: Would this movie be even more insulting had it come out around the tenth anniversary of 9/11? What future does Horn have if he’s already insufferable here?
REWATCHABILITY: Very little. With a running time that goes over two hours, even the first time viewing it turns into a chore.
“Yikes” is the word for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a shamelessly shallow jab of timely emotional manipulation. From the “Oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-they-are-doing-this” introductory sour shot all the way through its fairytale resolution, it’s the type of tale that would fit better in a hilarious nine-minute country ballad, as opposed to a movie that attempts to be about important little people in our world (as all Eric Roth scripts seem to focus on).
Extremely Loud makes little argument as to why it must feature September 11th, and do so prominently. The film could be about Tom Hanks choking on a lethal nacho as much as it is about one of America’s most unforgettable tragedies. Except, nachos don’t sell movie tickets as much as 9/11. Nor do they have people thinking “Oscar!” before seeing the actual full product.
Extremely Loud’s extremely exaggerated saga of Oskar and his key, followed up by the delusional actions of his mother, is wildly insensitive to those whose suffering through the actual events at the center of this movie couldn’t be any more real. A vision of a united New York is aimed for, but with incredibly cheap means. Even if Extremely Loud acknowledges the fairy dust in its ridiculous fantasy, it still has no place working with 9/11, especially when it dares to shove the non-fantasy of such events back in our faces.
Boasting to a men’s magazine that he would have helped stop 9/11, (“There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry,”) Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg sure “stepped in it.”
And yet while he did put said “it”-covered foot in his mouth, this recent uber-dumb flub comes just in time for the release of the awful Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. When a real and horrible tragedy is involved, there’s no room for exaggerated fantasies that yearn to show how a tragedy could be different. Otherwise you just sound like an asshole.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10