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A Different Coming of Age Story
on January 21, 2012
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) shares an incredibly close relationship with his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks). Oskar is an extraordinary child who has some very particular social quirks. His list is rather extensive and it's revealed that he was once tested for Asperger's Syndrome. However, Thomas Schell spends a great amount of time with his son and does everything he can to help him overcome his fears. However, on September 11, 2001 as the world changes forever, tragically so does the life of Oskar and his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock), as Thomas was in the second tower of the World Trade Center when it fell. Linda attempts to move on with life, but Oskar refuses to move forward. A year later, he accidently destroys a blue vase while rummaging through his father's closet and discovers a key in an envelope simply marked "Black". Thomas constantly played games with Oskar and led him on journeys around the city, hiding clues and prizes in the most unexpected places. Oskar is convinced the key is a gift left behind by his father to send him on one last adventure. Determined to find the door the key unlocks, Oskar begins a systematic search of the city, trying to locate the person with the last name "Black" who will be able to help him solve the mystery. Along the way, Oskar becomes acquainted with a man his grandmother has been renting a room to. The man seems to have no name and is simply known as "The Renter" (Max Von Sydow). The Renter is a survivor of WWII and reminds Oskar of his father. The two become unlikely companions and friends as they search the city to unravel the mystery of the key.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is based upon a 2005 novel by Jonathan Foer. I've not read the novel, so I can't compare the movie to the book.
The movie is an extremely moving piece of cinema. It goes to places that the audience might not suspect. The movie has a satisfying ending, but it's not necessarily a happy one. Like life, Oskar's journey doesn't turn out exactly as he had hoped. However, like all journeys, it changes his life forever.
The acting in EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is amazing. Tom Hanks plays a small, but important role. Newcomer Thomas Horn is so powerful that it's difficult to believe this is the first time he's ever acted on film before. Sandra Bullock has a strong supporting role that is worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Max Von Sydow speaks no lines, but his eyes speak more and convey more emotion than the most well trained politician. John Goodman has what is basically a cameo as Stan the Doorman, but it's always a joy to watch Goodman perform, even in a role such as this. There are numerous smaller roles in the various Blacks that Oskar meets. Most of these characters are only on screen for a few brief moments but each of them ground their scenes in realism. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is a good movie that is made great by the acting performances. If for no other reason, it's worth watching for the acting alone.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is a very emotional movie. For Americans, particularly those who lived and worked in New York on September 11, 2001, it will probably have a different kind of reaction. However, though the story is told through the lens of September 11th, the film is really a story about a young man coming to grips with the unexpected death of his father. It's a film that will probably resonate with anyone who has lost a parent they were close to. I cried several times and the film really made me think about my own Dad and his untimely death. I left the theatre thinking about many of the memories I have of my Dad. It made me a little sad, but very grateful. In the future, I'm sure that EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE is a movie I'll watch whenever I'm sad and thinking about my Dad because I know that though it might cause a few tears, it'll cheer me up in the end and, like Thomas Schell and my own father, encourage me to not stop looking for whatever adventure life holds.