Monday, February 20, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Starring: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis
Director: Stephen Daldry
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Rating: PG-13

For some reason, films about 9/11 haven’t fared well with mass audiences. Perhaps it’s the fact that movies can’t do the horrific tragedy justice, or maybe they hit too close to home for some people. I haven’t seen many of these films, but figured I was in for some tears during “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” To my surprise, the forefront story was not about 9/11; instead it focused on a boy’s quest to find a message from his late father. The cast and crew should be proud of such a successful and touching movie. They handled the 9/11 issues delicately, and managed to give me goose bumps for the last 30 minutes of the film.

The star of the film is Thomas Horn, a 14-year-old who was discovered after winning Kids’ Week on Jeopardy. He is incredibly talented, way beyond his years, and is in every scene of the movie. Though he received the Critics’ Choice Award for “Best Young Actor,” he is much deserving of more recognition. Horn plays Oskar Schell, whose father (Tom Hanks) was in the World Trade Center on what is referred to as “the worst day.” Hanks is lovable as always, and my heart truly broke for Oskar as he suffered the loss of his father, and best friend.

Oskar’s relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock) is nowhere close to what he shared with his dad. The two have a scream at the top of your lungs blow-out after Oskar tells her he wishes it had been her in the towers that day, instead of his dad. This role marks a beautiful return to the screen for Bullock, since her Oscar win for “The Blind Side” and personal life fiasco. In a scene depicting “the worst day,” Hanks calls Bullock from the 100th floor to ultimately say good-bye. I thought it was interesting that for this scene, Hanks came to the set every day and called her from a separate room, so she wouldn’t have to act the scene cold, and speak into a dead phone.

It’s obvious that Oskar is a brilliant young man, and his intelligence shocks many of the film’s characters. He doesn’t seem to have many friends, and being in public causes him anxiety. Oddly enough, he sneaks out of their New York City apartment on a nightly basis, which doesn’t seem to frighten him in the slightest! We later discover that Oskar suffers from Asperger syndrome, which is a social form of autism. Though he seems very mature, we always see him sip from a Juicy Juice juice box, reminding us that he is still very much a child.

As his grandfather, Max von Sidow is the third actor nominated for an Oscar this year without saying a word. After discovering a key in his father’s closet, Oskar is determined to find what it opens. He and his grandpa become companions as they search for this mysterious lock. On their journey, they meet hundreds of New York City citizens, some crazier than others, and it becomes an obsession for Oskar. We feel truly sorry for him, and know he will never find what he’s looking for.  As the movie progresses, we discover more about what happened on “the worst day,” and why it means so much to Oskar to solve this final puzzle he believes his dad left for him.

Jeffrey Wright of “Angels in America” appears in the last scene, one of the most heartfelt scenes of the film. The story finally comes full circle, and it seems Oskar has closure after all. This is nominated for Best Picture of the Year, and although it doesn’t stand a chance, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a while. I can’t wait to see what Thomas Horn does next. 

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