Released in cinemas 24th February 2012.
There can be little understating the effect and impact the tragic events of September 11th 2001 had upon the American consciousness, affecting every echelon of America, socially, economically and culturally. As such, any film dealing with the events or after-effects of the day should be treated with both caution and sensitivity. The latest effort from Stephen Daldry, best known for his work on Billy Elliot and The Hours, unfortunately - through an overly saccharine and sentimental approach - undermines its attempts to demonstrate both the loss and subsequent grief in losing a loved-one through such an irrational act.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a boy whose behaviour and difficulty to communicate with others indicates a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, struggles to cope with the loss of his beloved father Thomas (a one-note Tom Hanks). He and his father enjoyed an intense intellectual relationship, with Thomas often setting Oskar numerous tasks, frequently intended to help develop Oskar’s communication skills: the last task Oskar is set before his father’s untimely death is set with the intention that Oskar will be forced to talk to each person he encounters.
As Oskar struggles with his grief, failing to communicate with his mother (Sandra Bullock), he discovers a key hidden inside a vase in his father’s room. Knowing his father as he does, he believes the key has been left for him – his father’s last great task. Desperate to cling onto the memories of his father, Oskar embarks on a lengthy search, contacting anyone who he believes may be connected with the key, and thus, his father.
Hanks and Bullock are watchable, but they appear to struggle with the material provided. Given little opportunity for development, their performance has nowhere to go, resulting in largely tedious performances on both accounts. Horn, as the emotional centre of the film, fails to evoke any real sentiment.
Despite the undoubtedly admirable intentions of all involved, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close fails on almost every account. Its lead, Oskar, clearly designed to provide the empathetic link to the tragic event, is obnoxious and precocious rather than sympathetic. This lack of any discernible genuine sympathy aside, it seems entirely questionable, unethical even, to distil and simplify the experience of losing a loved-one (especially through an event affecting so many) through an often insufferable young boy.
Perhaps in the future there will be a film released that accurately and emotionally depicts the tragic events of 9/11, unfortunately Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is simply not it.