Friday, February 24, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close ★ ★ ★ ★1/2


Watch the trailer for EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE and it will tug at your heart.  Do I really need to put myself through this, you may think?  If I am already crying in the trailer, how will I handle 129 minutes of emotional rekindling of a tragedy that is burnt into all of our hearts?
Was it tough and do you really need to watch another film about the 9/11 tragedy?  Yes and absolutely yes.   And it wasn’t just me crying—you could hear the sniffs and nose-blowing across the theatre.  But at the end of this film, there is an uplifting, fulfilling pay-off which is worthy of the tears you will shed.
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE follows Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a very unusual, eccentric boy, possibly a mild Asperger sufferer, on a quest to find a lock for a key he has found in his Father’s cupboard.  His Father (Tom Hanks) died tragically a year before in one of the 9/11 Twin Towers.
Since then, his Mother (Sandra Bullock), enduring her own grief, appears to have distanced herself from him with his only remaining emotional attachment now being with his Grandmother, (Zoe Caldwell).  After 9/11, his grandmother has also taken in a “Renter” (Max Von Sydow), a mysterious man who doesn’t speak.
Oskar is no ordinary child—and neither is Thomas Horn who plays him; his performance is achingly brilliant.  In fact, he is no ordinary human being, as he sets out to discover the message he thinks his Father left him through the key. He desperately believes, that in pursuing the location of the lock, he will extend his time with his Father.  Through flashbacks, we see that his Father has always gently encouraged him to face his fears through games they called Reconnaissance Expeditions.  And Oskar is a child with many fears, including speaking to people.
For an eleven year old to find a random lock in New York City, with the only clue being the word “Black” written on the key’s envelope, would be a true miracle.  And we all want him to have his miracle.  On his journey he meets an eclectic assortment of people and befriends the speechless Renter, who also conceals secrets of his own.
The film is based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s acclaimed novel.  Academy Award® nominee Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot,” “The Reader,” “The Hours”) directed “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” from a screenplay by Academy Award® winner Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Insider”), and was produced by Scott Rudin (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Social Network,” “True Grit”). So there is a pedigree of excellence attached, which shines clearly through in every scene.  The film also stars Viola Davis (“Doubt”), John Goodman, and Jeffrey Wright in small but very powerful roles.
Many will say of EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, that they don’t need reminding of 9/11.  The beauty of this film is that even though the tragedy hovers over everything, the movie is firmly about Oskar and the overcoming of his fears.  In the end, you will be laughing and cheering and I promise you won’t leave the cinema devastated but instead uplifted. 
This core of the movie is not the 9/11 devastation but the wonderful things that came from it; the coming together of people, the winning against all odds, and the humanity that sprang from disaster.  Oskar’s journey is as much about the complex stages of grief and the journey it requires of us to survive, as it is about solving a mystery.
            A movie has done its job when the tendrils of emotion weave their magic around you whilst you are watching and then linger afterwards challenging you to analyse your feelings.  There is magic here and it is not Loud, but brings you masterfully Close to all things good about being human.