By Kelly Haugh
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s bestselling novel and starring a blockbuster cast, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” has been heavily hyped and nominated for two Academy Awards. The film follows 11-year-old Oskar, played by newcomer Thomas Horn, on a quest through New York City to discover what the mysterious key his father left him unlocks. His father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), often created imaginative games and adventures to help his son learn to interact with the world, since Oskar most-likely suffers from some form of autism.
Moviegoers barely get to meet Thomas before he perishes in the World Trade Center on 9/11. This is both the film’s crowning moment and one of its biggest hurdles. The tie to 9/11 provides the audience with a deep, somewhat surreal connection. Knowing Thomas’ destined fate while his son is innocently unaware makes for an extremely powerful scene that almost breaks your heart. The film’s brief use of the all-too-familiar news footage from that tragic day takes viewers right back to that moment and all the emotions that went along with it. The accompanying audio of Thomas’ last calls are so realistic and visceral that it’s actually a hard scene to watch.
Though the movie has garnered some criticism, just as the book did, for its use of 9/11 as a way to garner money and hype, its real crime is not doing the use of that September day justice. The scenes set on 9/11 are tasteful enough while still packing that emotional wallop, but this pinnacle of the movie takes place only ten minutes in. After that peak, the rest of the movie is a slow and winding letdown with the 9/11 angle feeling forced, as if it was merely tacked on for effect.
The dialogue and characters themselves were too weak and heavily-laden for even the all-star cast of Hanks, Sandra Bullock and John Goodman to overcome, though it’s clear they did their best with subpar material.
Given Horn’s lack of any acting experience, he did a superb job of bringing young Oskar to life, but the character’s incessant voice-overs are so overused they seem to blend together to form one giant, two-hour long whine.
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” seemed to be aiming for an artsy, independent feel, but it lacked the depth and emotion to pull it off. It had its high points but, regrettably, never reached its full potential.
Bottom line: it’s certainly not the worst movie out right now, but by no means is it as good as the trailers made it out to be. If you’re going to see it, lower your expectations now, or you can save yourself a couple hours and give “This Means War” or “The Vow” a chance instead.