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Movie Reviews

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close





Released: 2012

Directed By: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock

Certificate: 12A

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

11 years may have now passed since the horrific atrocities on America on September 11th 2001, but there’s no denying it is still an overwhelmingly raw ordeal to all associated with such a tragedy to come to terms with. So it’s understandable that the film community are considerably reluctant and only sporadically dipped their toes into dealing with the subject matter, Paul Greengrass’ hard hitting United 93 and Oliver Stone’s underwhelming ‘World Trade Center’ being such examples. Now the daunting task is bestowed upon director Stephen Daldry whom has a proven track record at firmly tugging at one’s heartstrings. Here, he attempts to adapt a 2005 Jonathan Safron Foer novel that depicts the aftermath and emotional struggles that came with 9/11, from the first person perspective of a young boy.

The young actor in question predominantly carrying the weight of such a premise on his shoulders, is debutant Thomas Horn who plays 9 year old Oskar. Although he is amazingly gifted in the brains department, he proves to be a deeply conflicted soul. Public struggles to adapt to the rush and overpowering sights and sounds of Downtown Manhattan seems a standard day to day scenario, but wrestling with his emotions after the tragic and untimely death of his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) occuring through the attack on the Twin Towers? Absolutely not. The unique bond they shared together and the admiration for puzzles or in more specific terms here ‘reconissance expeditions’ are shown in flashbacks.

Such insights set up the ‘bulk’ of the narrative, as mere years later Oskar stumbles across a mysterious key he discovers whilst snooping around his father’s closet. With the relationship he shares with his greiving mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) disintegrating further by the second as they grow increasingly disconnected from the real world, Oskar soon embarks on a personal journey . Along the way, he encounters various colourful characters such as a social recluse and mute only known as The Renter (Max Von Sydow), as he relentlessly searches the width and breadth of New York to see what the key unlocks.

Out of sheer respect, i tried desperately to appreciate ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’. But it sadly prompted a response of ‘Extremely Excruciating and Incredibly Infuriating’. For a film to tackle such a sensitive subject, it defies logic that it contains such a loathsome central protagonist in Oskar. Psychologically damaged goods he may be but the grating and jarring narration and the lack of restraint when interacting towards his adult counterparts, prove to be the stumbling blocks when Daldry attempts sincerity in the latter stages. The involvement of talents such as John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright and Tom Hanks prove to be ultimately throwaway, with only Von Sydow (deservedly scooping a Best Supporting Actor nod) and Sandra Bullock’s nuanced performance being the sympathetic saving graces.

In addition, Daldry’s handling and orchestration of the material is borderline offensive. Using every trick in his repertoire, such as sickening slow motion shots of Hanks falling from the sky with an overpowering piano accompaniment courtesy of Alexandre Desplat, he may garner a strong emotive response from his audience but i severely doubt evoking rage was the original gameplan. The heavy handed symbolism that Daldry feels obliged to smother us with and the peculiar tonal shifts verging from the quirky to all out preteniousness, do nothing more than leave a bitter aftertaste and the viewer emotionally distant.

But the REAL problem lies in its premise. There may be well assembled montages emphasising a sense of community through multiple bereavements on display here, but it pains me to say that the 9/11 tragedy proves to be a shamefully used gimmick. To be reduced to an appallingly conceived and long winded scavenger hunt with no real meaningful payoff, disgraces and cheapens the real victim’s memory. If we wanted to be transported to a world of fantasy involving keys, i’d watch Martin Scorsese’s Hugo again thanks.

It really does make you wonder what possessed the Academy to churn out a Best Picture nomination. An emotionally contrived, misguided and tiresome mess that doesn’t contain a graceful bone in its cinematic body!

Only the easily manipulated need apply..

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