Review: 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

Jeopardy Kids Week champion Thomas Horn stars in the post-9/11 drama. Submitted photo.

There's a scene in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a mostly

low-key drama dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where a

boy imagines his father falling to his death from the World Trade Center. A

shot depicts the father plunging through the air in slow motion, his limbs

flailing, heading face first towards the camera. We all have memories of

fleeting news shots of human beings falling to their deaths on that dreadful

day. But director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) decided that wasn't enough.

He had to jazz it up a little. So he digitally creates a "Wow!" moment,

presenting a point of view never seen - thank God - in any actual footage of

the tragedy.

What cheap exploitation. I'm surprised he didn't shoot it in 3D.

Extremely Loud, based on the 2005 novel by Jonathan Safran Foer,

tells the story of 11-year-old Oskar Schell (played by newcomer and Jeopardy

Kids Week champion Thomas Horn), who is trying to deal with the loss of his

devoted father (Tom Hanks) in the Twin Towers on what he calls the "Worst Day."

Oskar states he might have Asperger's syndrome (the "might have" allows

writers to milk the syndrome without being fully pinned down by a formal

diagnosis - The Big Bang Theory has been doing this for years). Dad

spent great amounts of time coming up with games and puzzles to draw his son

into social contacts with others. Oskar finds what he decides is a clue from

his late father, a key in an envelope with the word "black" on it. The kid sets

out to contact everyone named Black in the New York area, determined to solve

his dad's puzzle and get ... a message? Closure? Whatever it is, he breezes

past his distant mom (Sandra Bullock) each day to pursue his quest. They

weren't close before 9/11. Now they're like strangers.

There's more. Max von Sydow becomes Oskar's traveling buddy about half

way through the story. He's mute, communicating through a note pad and the

"yes" and "no" tattooed on his left and right hands. The character is

contrived, like much of the movie, but von Sydow makes him seem genuine. Thomas

Horn is effective as Oskar, though I'm not sure if his performance is a skilled

depiction of an individual with Asperger's, or just wooden readings from a

neophyte. Playing an estranged couple, Viola Davis makes her cameo appearance

count and Jeffrey Wright is heartbreaking as a troubled soul touched by Oskar's

trek. As the parents, Hanks twinkles as Super-Dad and Bullock gets a wonderful

scene late in the film.

Extremely Loud punched my emotional buttons, but not always in the

way the filmmakers intended. 9/11 was the biggest shared experience of most of

our lives. The memories of that day - the tragedy, heroism, pain, confusion,

and above all the humanity - are sacred. I've yet to see a fictional movie

about 9/11 that seemed necessary. Documentaries about the NYC attacks, the

United Flight 93 hijacking and the overall tragedy have done justice to the


There are scenes in Extremely Loud that are moving and others

that are mawkish. The sense of community that never seemed stronger than in the

days after 9/11 shines through on occasion in the movie. I appreciated some of Extremely

Loud and Incredibly Close, but not enough to make up for Daldry's

ham-handed manipulation and that miserable falling-dad shot that reduces one

of the most nightmarish images we'll ever witness to a video game special



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