Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close follows an 11-year-old boy as he tries to cope with the death of his father after 9/11.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn in his film debut) is a troubled, possibly autistic boy with many issues ranging from anxiety, fears and OCD. His father Thomas (Tom Hanks) tries to help Oskar cope with the world and overcome his fears by concocting scavenger hunts and mystical stories.  When his father dies in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11 Oskar’s world falls apart and in an attempt to keep his father alive he embarks on the impossible task of finding a lock that matches a key he believes his father has left him.
While Oskar walks all over New York City meeting people called Black, the only clue he has for his quest, his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) seems to be sinking into her own depression.
As Oskar meets more and more people a mosaic of stories and faces appear on screen, the most prominent one is The Renter (Max von Sydow).  This silent mesmerizing figure has moved in with Oskar’s Grandmother and fascinates Oskar. Having a whole backstory of his own The Renter doesn’t speak but writes on a black pad when he has something to say. The two team up and continue together on Oskar’s search for an answer to a question he never quite asks.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a beautifully shot film with stunning scenes and a complex story line. Oskar comes across as quite obnoxious and annoying, very bossy and more than a little odd, but his quirkiness adds to the story as it visualises many aspects of the Oskar’s personality. The black dress shoes, the banging tambourine and the much too large trousers  all have their place.
Max von Sydow however is the main character you want to watch. Although he never says a word his facial expressions say it all.  His wonderfully weathered face seems so in contrast with many a botoxed Hollywood beauty that it is refreshing to watch.
Although Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close attempts to deal with the complexity of the events that followed 9/11 it doesn’t quite succeed. It feels a little over thought, under acted, too contrived. A sense that this film was solely made for an Oscar nomination lingers throughout. But Max von Sydow is well worth watching.

(Suburbia Magazine Feb/Mar2012)

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