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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Review

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

OVER a decade on and 9/11 remains one of the most difficult subjects to tackle for any filmmaker, regardless of past track records.

Those that stick to the true stories (Paul Greengrass’ United 93 or Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center) tend to fare better than those that take those events and place a fictitious set of characters around them (Remember Me For Lambs”:/DVD-Review/lions-for-lambs).

Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s already polarising novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close falls into the latter category with similarly wayward results.

Yet ironically it’s not so much the 9/11 elements that fail, and which are sensitively handled, than the contrived, manipulative nature of the rest of the film.

The story follows the fortunes of young, possibly mentally unstable Oskar (Thomas Horn) as he attempts to come to terms with the loss of his father (Tom Hanks) in the attack on the Twin Towers by setting himself the task of solving the mystery behind a key he finds in the closet of his mother (Sandra Bullock) among his late dad’s things.

It’s a quest that takes him into the lives of several other New Yorkers and for which he also enlists the help of a grumpy, non-speaking possible family member (Max Von Sydow) from across the street.

Daldry’s film plays out like a fairytale wrapped in a nightmare as the innocent Oskar overcomes his own pain and guilt by bringing a little balance to the lives of those he also touches, including most notably Viola Davis’ and Jeffrey Wright’s crumbling couple.

But Horn lacks the charm needed to make his journey heart-warming, emerging as bratty and precocious instead, while Eric Roth’s screenplay does him few favours.

Daldry’s direction also seems designed to manipulate emotions with awards nominations in mind (as his Oscar nomination for best film confirms) but it is no barometer of quality… rather that a certain criteria has been fulfilled with the Academy’s voters duly duped.

The film does at least treat the 9/11 moments with the sensitivity they warrant, providing Hanks (or rather his voice) and Bullock with some strong moments, and evoking chilling reminders and insights into the horror of that day.

But even then, Daldry’s decision to include a reference to those that chose to jump from the Towers during the opening credits feels needlessly provocative in a way the rest of his overly sentimental, overly Hollywood-ised plotting can’t match.

Hence, the overall impression is one of disappointment and even anger that a film of this nature could have resulted from the combined talents of those involved.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close panders to the worst kind of Hollywood convention and feels particularly false when considered against it’s own terrible real-life context. That it has come anywhere close to the awards season it so desperately (and manipulatively) wants to be a part of makes it all the more annoying.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs
UK Release Date: February 17, 2012