Film Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close


It’s difficult to understand why this film rated an Oscar nomination for best picture. Perhaps it was because the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center still resonates with Americans. But the film did not resonate with me.

Don’t misunderstand me: the film is original and well-produced. But the theme depends too much on the assumption that the viewer will experience the same grief as the central character, young Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), who loses his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks), in the WTC attack.

Oskar’s anguish at his father’s death takes the form of a frantic, but intelligently constructed, search for the lock that matches a  mysterious key he finds in  Thomas’s closet. Armed only with the clue that the key is associated with someone named Black, Oscar attempts to interview every Black in New York City. In this, he is aided by a sullen neighbour (Max von Sydow), known only as “The Renter”,who has not uttered a word after being struck dumb by the horrors of the Second World War. Meanwhile, Oskar’s mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock), sinks into apparent apathy.

And that’s where the film lost me. We are supposed to compare the griefs of three characters (Oskar, Linda and The Renter), but the futility of Oscar’s obsessive search obscures that theme. Besides, Linda never meets The Renter, so that comparison is lost. The resolution to the search, when it arrives, is contrived, unsatisfying and unrealistic.

Two minor quirks of this film. First, it is touted as starring Hanks and Bullock, yet these veterans play only supporting roles. Von Sydow, who says not a word, has a bigger part. Second, who on earth dreamed up that title? I thought I was going to see a  movie about a rock band.

Bottom line. A solid film with the fatal flaw of not being particularly interesting.

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About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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