Review: EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 27 February 2012



Stephen Daldry's fourth feature, EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE, has been heavily marketed as a prominent vehicle starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock -- an obvious hook to bait sizable viewers to watch the movie. However, those who are hoping to see the two Oscar winners onscreen may end up surprised and disappointed to find their characters are merely extended cameo appearances. Instead, the movie focuses on newcomer Thomas Horn, a 13-year-old wunderkind who doesn't have acting experience at all. That hardly matters at all, because he's one of the main good reasons to watch for. Other than that, EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE also benefited from an affecting and well-meaning tale of post-9/11 trauma that is guaranteed to tug your heartstrings.

Based on the best-selling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, the movie centers on a highly-intelligent 9-year-old Oskar Schell (Horn) who has a very close relationship with his jeweler dad, Thomas (Tom Hanks). His dad loves to create makeshift reconnaissance expeditions to feed his son's curious mind, and both of them often enjoy the company of each other like two best friends. But Oskar is devastated when he learns his dad died in the fateful morning of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. One day when Oskar explore his dad's closet, he accidentally drops a blue vase which reveals a mysterious key inside an envelope simply marked "Black". He quickly convinced that the key must be something important his father wanted to tell him, and so he sets off a quest to solve the mystery all by himself.

Soon his journey requires him to visit dozens of strangers across New York City, which also includes a divorcing couple (Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright) he has first met. Then he also gradually befriends with an elderly loner who simply calls himself "The Renter" (Max von Sydow) and finds out he doesn't speak a word other than communicating through scribbling words in his notepad or answering "yes" or "no" by showing off his palm.

Tackling such a sensitive subject involving 9/11 is indeed a risky move until now, but director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth knows well how to depict a heartfelt crowd pleaser, even though some viewers might complained their storytelling method borderlines as one of those typical Hollywood saccharine melodramas (in which I must admit it was emotionally manipulative at times). Too bad the mystery itself isn't as captivating as it tends to be once the answers to the key is discovered towards the finale -- let's just say it's strangely anticlimactic and unsatisfying.

Fortunately the ensemble cast is top-notch enough to make this entirely worthwhile. As mentioned earlier, Horn is a surprising revelation -- a gifted child actor who pulls off such a spontaneous and emotionally-heartfelt performance that he's certainly destined for a bigger thing in the future. Although Sandra Bullock doesn't appears much in the movie, she remains credible in her respective role as the grieving mother. Two of her particularly memorable scene involving her having a huge argument with her son halfway throughout the movie, and another one involved a final heartbreaking phone call with her husband as he's trapped at the top of the World Trade Center. Max von Sydow, on the other hand, steals every scene he's in as the mysterious "renter" who doesn't speaks a word. His craggy face alone is expressive enough to speak a thousand word that his performance here renders him as among his finest act he's ever committed. As for Tom Hanks, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright -- all of them manage to shine in their performances even though they are only given a smaller role.

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