I knew a guy with much more intense Asperger's Syndrome than the hero of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and he was nowhere near as mean-spirited and horrible as this kid. The guy I knew was one of the most genuine people I ever met. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close uses this character in a failing experiment for the two hours that it runs. This is a movie that wants us to feel much more than we are given.
It's not a bad film. But I imagine it will be undeservedly nominated for best picture, and I hope that it doesn't. It's very well made and pretty to look at, but the story is basic and I just don't care. I suspect critics other than myself will praise it for being "dark" and "moody" and maybe even heartbreaking, but to me it's just not enough. I wanted more, especially for its length. Director Stephen Daldry put together a film that is visually interesting, but in the end I just didn't care.
The strangest thing here is that it's penned by Eric Roth, who has virtually done no wrong. His screenplay is well constructed, but the story isn't anywhere near as captivating as it could be. I haven't read Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name but I've read about it and people say it's nowhere near the strength of his other works. It's strange that a movie was even crafted for a book that people seemed to not care about, but it was. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not a bad movie, but it's not one I'll desire to see again or hope for Oscar nods for.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in 9/11. He has Asperger's Syndrome and because of this he does not handle the news well. His mother, (Sandra Bullock) struggles with raising Oskar as he obsesses over his father's death. He one day finds a key that was seemingly meant for him amongst his father's things. The rest of the story unfolds as a pseudo-scavenger hunt for one final message from his father.
Tom Hanks is charming of course, but his screen time probably adds up to under 10 minutes. Sandra Bullock deserves a lot of credit for saying a lot with her character without actually speaking. I always seem to forget that Sandra Bullock is actually an incredible actress. To me, she provided the most interesting aspects. I wonder if she truly loves Oskar towards the beginning of the film. But it's Max von Sydow who steals the show, and he doesn't even speak the entire film. His performance is outstanding and if Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close deserves any sort of award, it's for Sydow's performance.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I usually can't stand child actors. Thomas Horn is no exception. He has moments where I find him decent, but for the most part I didn't enjoy his performance at all. I don't want to sound mean - he's just not good. He's extremely young, but in this day and age I don't think that excuse should fly anymore. If he's not good, find someone who is. I praised Joel Courtney's performance in my review of this summer's Super 8, so I know it's possible to hire talented child actors. Horn, apparently the winner of some sort of teen Jeopardy, didn't cut it for me. It seems as though he's trying to prove to the world he's a young Brando instead of really playing the character. Just because you can summon tears doesn't mean you can act. I'll always consider Matt Damon's performance in The Good Shepherd as one of the best performances I've ever seen, and he speaks at a monotone the entire movie. Acting means playing characters, not showcasing your "skill".
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close may be worth seeing if you crave 9/11 stories. Daldry and cinematographer Chris Menges do a good job of making the movie visually interesting and the performances (with the exception of the main character) are good, but it's just a big whatever. What I say to this movie is whatever. It's too long and it's too in-your-face. This movie is incredibly close, but not nearly loud enough.