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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
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.
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98 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2012
Format: DVD
A Boy's Quest in EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
Ambitious in concept, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the love story of a troubled boy whose bond with his father transcends death and events beyond his understanding. Director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliott, The Hours) has put together an interesting study in post trauma and rediscovery. It doesn't always work, but it still registers on an emotional level.

A funeral signals the death of a family member and a boy's alienation to the world. In flashbacks, Oskar (Thomas Horn), who has trouble communicating and may have Asperger Syndrome, adores his father (Tom Hanks) who challenges him with riddles and treasure hunts to meet people outside his apartment. Both father and mother (Sandra Bullock) are loving parents, and the world becomes an interesting laboratory for exploration and discovery. Life is idyllic until 9/11 when everything changes and Oskar is witness to his father's last moments trapped in one of the Twin Towers. A year later, looking in his father's closet, he discovers a key in an envelope with the letters `black'. Who or what does the key belong to? Oskar sets out to find out by systematically tracking down every `Black' in the phone book and visiting each person for a clue. This big scavenger hunt is at best a daunting task.

His grandmother who lives across the street has a mysterious renter (Max Von Sydow) who does not speak and can only communicate by jotting on a note pad or displaying `yes' and `no' written on each hand. The renter takes a liking to Oskar and accompanies him on his quest. This is a search that proves overwhelming as each person they find has a story too. When all hope seems lost, the road leads back to that fateful September morning and opens Oskar to the truth about his parents and himself.

At first you wonder if this hunt will be meaningful and be rewarded or if it is a waste of time. Oskar's obsession keeps him connected to his father; to fail is to lose whatever he has left of that relationship. In a way, it is about trying to make sense of his father's death and coming to terms with it. It is also about the forgiveness of guilt that nearly consumes Oskar.

You kind of think that at some point a miracle may occur or that something profound may happen, but what does reveal itself does not quite answer all the questions, and maybe that's just the point to the film, that life is part mystery and we never truly understand its riddle.

When you take stock of all the people that Oskar encounters, you realize that every one of them can sympathize or has suffered some kind of loss, and how they react to that in relation to Oskar shows how the trauma of loss can be a common bond. You wish you could learn more about some of these people.

Von Sydow gives a memorable performance without uttering a word as the renter who has a personal, family secret. Why does he remain mute? Was he a survivor of something so traumatic like the concentration camps of Europe that he does not speak? In a supporting role, Viola Davis is effective playing a character who figures prominently at the beginning and the end.

In the end, Oskar has learned something about himself and his family, and through his journeys, he has matured in a new post-9/11 world. Ultimately, the revelation at the end is bittersweet and that without the power of forgiveness, closure is incomplete. It also speaks to a part of humanity that we all share.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
Verified Purchase
Most of us in this country, indeed most of those in the civilized world, has a memory of where they were and how they felt on September 11, 2001. Many, of course, have painful and permanent losses to deal with. For myself, we were far from home on that day, and I truly felt that something of our world had ended. Which, in fact it had. So when it was announced that there would be a movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which would touch on those tragic events, our first response was, "No, we don't think so." Then we learned who was to be in this movie, and the cast included so many of our favorite actors: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, people we felt we could trust to do such a subject justice, and we said, "Well...." Then we learned more about the story of the film (and story is everything, to us) and we asked ourselves, "How could we not see it?"

And I'm so very glad we did. Everyone is predictably excellent. The story is beautifully done, and at the same time simple and deeply layered. The child actor makes you believe he is dealing with the personal problems of the child character. These problems would be unique and difficult enough, if they did not also include the loss of an incredible father under horrific circumstances, and you share the pain of this family of grandmother, mother and son, while the story is told from so many different directions. Being one of those who cry at Hallmark commercials, I am always loathe to see any movie or play or read any book that wants to make me cry. But this movie is not like that. I did just fine throughout the entire story, experiencing it intensely but dry-eyed. Until the end. Until I got to the point where I could fully appreciate the efforts this family made to move forward, the grace with which they and the families they represented dealt with what they were given. Until I could see the wonder of the story.

It was terrible in the parts that invoked the events that we already knew had happened; it became wonderful beyond my power of description because of a boy on a swing. And then I wept.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I rented this movie with some trepidation. I read the book several years ago and it was one of my all-time favorites. I was afraid (especially with the negative reviews here on Amazon) that it would not only fall below my expectations but it would ruin the beautiful story I remember from the book. I was so wrong. This was a great movie!
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54 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant Video
This movie got to me immediately and I was an emotional wreck by the end. The young man who played Oskar should have GOTTEN an Oscar. He was appropriately named. I have a nephew with Asperger's so I know that this young man played this part to perfection. At the core, it's the beautiful story of a damn good father who loved his wife and son and left this world too early, and how his family deals with that. It's flipping beautiful. I don't understand the low reviews from some.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2012
Format: Amazon Instant Video
I work with kids with Asperger's and this kid did a perfect job. One reviewer thought he wasn't enough like a real kid. Well, Asperger's kids are different. They're often exactly like this kid.
A perfect movie. I can't imagine a better one being made about 911. Incredibly moving and extremely sad. Very, very well-written. Amazing....
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2012
Format: DVD
"My father died at 9-11. After he died I wouldn't go into his room for a year because it was too hard and it made me want to cry." Oskar (Horn) is having a hard time dealing with the loss of his father (Hanks). On the morning of September 11th he is sent home early from school and is the first one home. He listens to the answering machine messages that he hides from his mother (Bullock). One year later he finds a key in his father's closer and finds one more way to be close to his dad. Going in I was looking forward to this one. Tom Hanks usually doesn't make a bad movie. While this is in no way a bad movie it was much slower then I expected. This was as depressing as I thought but there was something missing to really drive it home. Much like "In The Land Of Blood & Honey" it seemed to try to hard to make you feel bad when just the story alone has the power to do that. The one huge bright spot is the acting by the kid playing Oskar, he is in about 95% of the scenes and carries the movie extremely well. For a kid that young to steal a movie from Hanks is very impressive. Overall, a very good movie but I was expecting it to be better. I give it a B.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Possibly the most unique movie of the past few years. Oscar, played by Thomas Horn, carries the weight of the movie on his capable shoulders. He appears to be an autistic savant, possibly Aspergers syndrome. Oscar has lost his father in the twin towers attack of 9/11. Here is what I found challenging- we empathize with his loss, but find it difficult to relate to him personally. Simply put- he isn't a very likable young man. He swears at the security guard and is rather mean to his mother; however, I believe his story is one of the best portrayals of grief response I have ever seen. In real life, whether autistic or not, people don't always respond to life's trials with grace. It hurts... it hurts bad, and maybe the last thing they need are superficial pat statements such as "It will all work for good", "He is in a better place", or "He's still alive because he's alive in your heart". Please note- I personally believe that these comments are true, but for the person in grief, they can be detrimental- each of the comments listed are also saying-"You shouldn't be hurting as badly as you are".
Oscar, on a quest to solve his "father's final mystery" is desperately trying to hold on to his father- the "only one" who really understood him. SPOILER ALERT- ENDING REVEALED BEYOND THIS POINT- While watching this movie, I found myself becoming critical of the storyline. There were 2 growing issues. 1. Why were all these strangers allowing Oscar into their homes and lives? It seemed unrealistic to me, right from the first Mrs. Black that he visited. Why did she open the door? 2. Why was the mother so distant from Oscar? Sandra Bullock's character was grieving too, but she appeared to be nothing more than a movie prop. Alas, I was so wrong on both accounts! She knew exactly what Oscar was doing, and had secretly visited all the Black's on the list in advance- to lovingly make her son's journey an easier one! What a beautiful ending! What love this mother has for her child! She knows him- as well as her husband did. She is his guardian angel, his protector, and his champion. She understood what no other human being on the planet could have understood- Oscar needed this journey, this quest, in order to find peace- to make "sense" of something senseless. WOW!
One last point- I stated earlier that Oscar is not a real likable little boy- that too is wrong. He is grieving, he is a bit "different", and he doesn't talk respectfully to adults- but... he is absolutely wonderful. I will never forget the wonder and beauty of one scene- He has harsh words with his mother, he leaves, but then stops... he whispers through the bottom of a closed door "I love you". He isn't sure if she is even there to hear it, but of course she is... she's always there. If you are a parent, especially if you have a child with special needs, this movie stands as a testament to the beauty of what you do each and every day. It isn't easy, and most will never know of the love and the sacrifices you make- but you are your child's angel... his protector... her champion!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
While this has all the aspects of a great movie, for some reason it's just not. It's boring and slow to develop. When the story does develop it is a bit of a let down.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Adapted from the 2005 novel by Jonathan S. Foer, this is a brilliant film that certainly has Academy Award potential. The acting is exceptional, the theme a haunting one and even though there are some parts of the plot that do not ring true, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and it left me deeply moved, sad and crying at the end.

Tom Hanks is cast as a father who is deeply committed to his 9-year old son. The son, brilliantly played by young Thomas Horn, who may or may not have Asperger's Syndrome, is extremely intelligent although afraid of such things as going on a swing in the park. His father spends a lot of time with the boy and is committed to educating him. The boy thrives on this. And then, suddenly, the date is September 11, 2001 and the father is at a meeting on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center and makes several panicky calls home which get recorded on voice mail. Sandra Bullock plays the mother in a heart rendering role. She and her son have never been close and the boy resents her even though she deeply loves him and does her best to get him through the hard time he is having.

One day the boy finds a key in his father's closet. It is in a small brown envelope with the word "Black" on it. The boy assumes that this must be a person with the last name of Black and then sets out on a voyage of discovery to visit every single one of the 472 people in New York City with the last name of Black. Soon he is joined by an old man in his eighties, played by Max Von Sydow who doesn't speak and who communicates through writing on a notepad.. Together they travel the city and there are a few humorous and heartfelt moments between them. Eventually the boy does discover the truth about the key although it is not what he expected.

There were a few problems with this film in general. How can such a young boy be permitted to travel around the city alone? Where was the mother? Eventually, in an emotional conclusion demonstrating fine acting by Sandra Bullock, we do find out but it's hard to believe that the plot could have really happened this way.

Clearly, this is the saddest film I have ever seen and I will long remember it with tears in my eyes. That is why I just stop short of giving it my highest recommendation. I do not want to recommend it only because I know it will make everyone who sees this film sad too. And there surely is enough sadness in this world already.
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