A few years back it became a hobby to make fun of the trend in marketing to describe things as extreme. Extreme sports are one thing (you aren’t going to see me jumping out of a helicopter into the middle of circling sharks while wearing a suit of meat with the goal of safely swimming back to shore. Way too extreme. Yes I made that sport up.), but can deodorant really be that extreme? Then again, every once in a while something worthy of the descriptor comes along. Such is the case with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I may be a monster for saying this, but there is something oddly fascinating about witnessing a child experience tragedy, at least as it is depicted in this film. The story, based on a book of the same name, follows a 9-year-old boy after the death of his father during the events of 9/11. The main body of the film takes place one year after these events when the boy discovers a key among his fathers things, and builds it up in his mind that finding the lock that matches the key will keep him close to his father.
Obviously the story sounds like a tearjerker, and the theater will be littered with snifflers from time to time, but the film is something far greater than just a depressing story. It’s hard to describe, but coming out of the theater the only word I could come out with was “magical” and “cinematic” to the best extent of the word in terms of overall artistic worth. “What!? Did you just describe a movie as cinematic? That’s really going out on a limb…” But once you see the movie you will know why it is the perfect word.
From the editing of the scenes to the heightened sound editing, it isn’t a challenge to get inside the mind of this boy even though he may be living with a form of Asperger’s Syndrome (he was tested, but the findings were inconclusive, as he would clarify). However, it is through the interactions of Oskar Schell with his family, as well as the people of New York he meets while on his journey, that he will truly win you over. Thomas Horn play Oskar beautifully through the highs and lows of his emotional states, putting just as much honesty and heart into some scenes as his feelings break through, to stating some things matter-of-factly to a comedic extent. Both Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks give performances as great as anything you have come to expect from these actors, and the inclusion of their somewhat smaller roles as Oskar’s parents still includes some of the best moments. Then again, the same thing can be said for every other actor in the film. Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright play two of the citizens of the city Oskar meets during his search, and Zoe Caldwell deserves recognition as Oskar’s grandmother for one scene in particular that might have been the most touching for me. However, it is the scenes between Horn and Max von Sydow that will have you smiling the most as they communicate in their own special way.
All characters stand out on their own, exemplifying just one aspect of the beauty of New York, and this film will seem like a love story to one of the greatest cities in the world. But most importantly, for someone who often feels that films can take an event like 9/11 and use it poorly for the emotions the memory of that day brings up in the viewer, I can honestly say that I was impressed with how they handled it, especially considering how much it affects the course of the story.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a film title worthy of its large syllable descriptors. Magically delicious also works, though I am pretty sure Lucky Charms has the rights to that one. Point is, put this film at the top of your viewing requirements list; you won’t want to miss it. If you do you will be extremely disappointed and incredibly stupid.
Final Grade: A- Follow @BewareOfTrees