‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ Movie Review
When it comes to national and historical tragedies, previous movies have taught us to err on the side of caution, meaning wait as long as possible. That doesn’t mean that the horrific attacks of 9/11 can’t be used in cinema; however, it does mean that fictional work that directly uses the tragedy will be highly controversial, especially if the film debuts just 10 years after the events. While films based on true events of 9/11 have been met with positive acclaim (World Trade Center, United 93), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may feel like 9/11 is used as a direct pathway to the tear ducts. It’s no wonder the film has such a love/hate following.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows the adventure of 10-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) in the wake of his father’s (Tom Hanks) tragic death in the collapse of the North Tower. A year after his father’s passing, Oskar inadvertently finds an envelope marked with the name “Black” containing a mysterious key. Since his father went to extraordinary lengths to create adventures for Oskar, he takes it as a sign that the key represents something special.
Not only is there something important to be unlocked, but Oskar believes it is a way of keeping his father alive. With his odd and introverted personality, Oskar is tested in ways he would have considered widely unimaginable beforehand.
If you eliminate 9/11 from the equation, the film would stand a good shot of being widely praised. However, like I’ve previously mentioned, many people likely will have trouble overlooking it. Personally, I had no problem with it, but I am not going to try and speak for the ones who were personally more affected that day.
For those who can get past the plot point, you’ll likely enjoy the film. The rookie actor Horn does a terrific job playing such a peculiar character, which seems like the only personality that would make the story seem correct. And from a writing standpoint, Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) delivers a script that genuinely works. The writing, though, may be another area that receives a tremendous amount of flak because it is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name. Anytime a movie is adapted from the book, there is sure to be a debate regarding which one is better, something I think is both pointless and stupid. However, I’ve also never read the book, so maybe I’m the one who should be criticized.
Speaking of Jonathan Safran Foer, this is his second novel turned into a movie, with the first being Everything Is Illuminated, which will also be thrown into the debate. Again, I feel like any comparison is out-of-line, but I will admit there are certain similarities between the two source materials. They both involve tumultuous times, odd journeys, and profound emotions.
Really, it’s the emotions that Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) is going for in Extremely Loud. No matter what the backdrop is, he is trying to make sense of tragedy, while showing how difficult it is to leave people behind. Death is never an easy subject, and the existential nature of this story is what makes the film watchable, although you may want to bring a few tissues along.
I felt like the only problem I had with the film was that, from the onset, it almost made crying its main mission. Yes, the story is emotional, but I couldn’t help but feel like every moment was a buildup that was supposed to leave someone in tears. This is what made me feel a little bit manipulated by the storytelling.
Thankfully, the film still hit a bunch of good notes along the way. The song (in this metaphor) may not have been as personally emotional to me (compared to the weeping couples around me), but I still thought it was a great song. The plot uses a tragedy to its benefit, but I really don’t think anybody was trying to make money off of 9/11. Or, at least, I hope not. If you have a similar viewpoint to me, you’ll probably enjoy this film, although perhaps “enjoy” isn’t the correct term.