A tale of love and loss is played out against 9/11. That backdrop might not set well with some audiences of this fictional tale and others might not want to relive those horrible days.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is the precocious child of Thomas (Tom Hanks) and Linda (Sandra Bullock). His father arranges elaborate scavenger hunts for Oskar and it only creates a stronger bond between them.
All that changes on September 11th when Thomas attends a meeting in the Twin Towers. Oskar and Linda are devastated, but when Oskar finds a blue vase in the closet he thinks that his father is speaking to him beyond the grave.
The vase contains a safety deposit key with the name of Black on it. He grows estranged from his mother but closer to his grandmother (Zoe Caldwell). She has taken a renter (Max Von Sydow) who refuses to speak and only communicates with notes and “yes” and “no” tattooed on his hands. Oskar plans on visiting every Black in the New York phonebook till he finds out what the key opens and hopefully reveals a final message from his father.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is going to be a tough film to watch for some. I know I had a hard time since it brought back the uneasiness of that worst day. The film begins with a flailing figure falling through space that greatly disturbed me as the jumpers of the Towers still give me chills. I also felt it a shade exploitive to set the fictional events of the film against the rubble of the Twin Towers. The events did shape the landscape and emotions of New York though so the backdrop does make some sense to show a family stricken by the loss of their father.
It still may open some old wounds though. Horn is a revelation and acts the role of a special needs, possibly autistic child excellently. You do question that his remaining parent would just let him wander all over New York by himself but the narrative makes clear that isn’t the case. He may have played chess with Death, but Von Sydow does great things without saying a word. It’s no wonder that he got an Oscar nomination for his acting.
Actually, much of the film seems exactly like Oscar bait. It was hailed before opening at the box office as such, but indifference and critical questioning over the 9/11 backdrop caused it to drop out of that spotlight. It was a bit of a stunner when Von Sydow got the nod (not that he didn’t deserve it mind you, if not for this for his body of work) as well as a best picture nod.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is presented in a 1080p transfer (2.40:1). Special features, presented in high definition, include the 20 minute making of, the 8 minute “Finding Oskar” about casting him, the 11 minute “Ten Years Later” about those affected by 9/11, and the 44 minute “Dialogues with the Renter” a documentary about Von Sydow’s role by his son. Disc two is a DVD copy of the film and you get a code for an UltraViolet download.
It seemed a film made for the Oscars as it potentially had the stuff Academy voters might look for. However, setting the events against the still painful events of 9/11 felt a smidge exploitive. It still has some fine acting, but prepare to be reminded of events that will shake you up a bit again if you’re get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
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