Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close: "If It Isn't Difficult To Find, It Is Not Worth Finding"

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer:    Eric Roth
Starring: Thomas Horn
               Tom Hanks
               Sandra Bullock
               Max von Sydow
               Viola Davis
               John Goodman
               Jeffrey Wright
               James Gandolfini
Rating:     ****

Released Date: 17/02/12

You will often find that in film, television and even books, wrong-doing and cruelty are often portrayed from a childs perspective, this allows things to be shown from a more innocent point of view, making unspeakable things more harrowing. This moving look at the events on 9/11 from director Stephen Daldry (based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Froer) makes use of that very idea and goes even further by suggesting that our young hero is on the autistic spectrum.

Unfortunately though this means that that the harsh truths are sometimes laid on a bit too thick, I suspect in his quest to get another Oscar nomination. I guess it's fair to say that they are blessed to have the fresh, new, young star Thomas Horn, who as 9-year-old Oskar struts through the film with a confidence that helps to remove a lot of the over the top script and direction away from the plot. Admittedly I don't really like Thomas Horn as an actor, I found him extremely unlikable, but for his first film and role, he does do a terrific job.

Skipping back and forth in time it's revealed that Oskar's doting father Thomas Schell (Hanks) actually died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre. None of it seems to  make any sense to Oskar, but the anxiety is amplified because he has a strongl need for order and tidiness. When he comes across a mysterious key in his dad's wardrobe he hopes it will lead the way to a resolution.

So begins a door to door tour of New York City, an extremely loud, daunting and scary place for such a nervous boy. But the people he meets are mainly friendly and forthcoming, like The Help's Viola Davis who is also grieving a loss. The intensity of the situation is added to by Oskar's blunt questioning, but these moments of humour, instead of enlightening, can feel like a desperate attempt to avoid the severity of some of the situations.

Oskar only buttons up around his mum (Bullock), a caring but hurting woman who tries to connect with her son, but since the tragedy is struggling. Their scenes together are the ones that really got to me, especially when Oskar finally lashes out, cutting her down with remarks that really expose her vulnerability. In contrast, flashbacks to the good old days with dad feel forced and fake because Oskar refuses to see any flaws.

Another father figure soon crops upf in the form of Oskar's grandma's lodger (Sydow), who offers to help Oskar in his hunt for the lock that fits the key. This storyline is pretty heavy aswell, as it's clear the old man is hiding something and, in one of the story's many quirks, he's mute as well. Still, their developing friendship gives the film a clearer sense of direction just as the energy is beginning to dissapear.

The story is an engaging one, but unfortunately the journey is long and bumpy and cracks really begin to show near the end. Oskar reveals a fixation on the photo of 'the falling man' and though this may have been effective as an idea on a page, it feels exploitative and cheap when shown in close-up on the big screen.

As the film draws to a close, it becomes clear to Oskar that he must accept that the world is messy and random, and unfortunately not all things happen for a reason. The comforting feeling that he was loved, and is loved, is shown to us throughout the film in grand gestures that really aren't necessary and certainly aren't realistic. Despite the over the top emotion, it is hard not to be moved by the film and it's performances, if only the director had held back a bit more.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Trailer