Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was a very interesting film. It deals with several human issues including the relationship between a parent and a child; and how to deal with a special needs child. This movie is a journey, and a long one at that, it drags a little in places but the payoff is worth it at the end.
Our story begins with a flashback to an event that most of are hauntingly familiar with, 9/11. Oskar's (the main character) father was on the towers when they fell. Oskar is released from school early that day, and returns home in time to hear his father's last words on the answering machine. This is a devastating blow for both Oskar and his mother. Oskar is a special child that has to be dealt with in a special way. His father had that special way of containing and motivating Oskar, his mother does not. She is at a loss on how to deal with Oskar, and her own loss of her husband. Therefore, a year after the event, both of them are still floundering on how to move on after such a loss. Oskar tells his mother that he wishes it were her in the tower instead of his father and she confesses, "So do I." Emotionally they are both at a standstill.
Later, Oskar is going through some of his father's things and discovers a key in an envelope labeled "Black". When his father was alive, he used to design complex treasure hunts for Oskar to teach him things like responsibility and familiarity with the city. Oskar feels like this key is a clue to the final scavenger hunt from his father. Perhaps, it will teach him what his father wanted him to know about life, and could be the journey that helps Oskar move past the loss of his father. Oskar looks up every Black in the New York phone book and embarks on a journey to visit them all in hopes that they have the lock that the key opens. Will Oskar find the lock that the key opens? Will Oskar's journey help him deal with the loss of his father? And where is his mother when he is wandering all about the city?
Along his journey, Oskar meets an older man that is staying with his grandmother (father's mother) who lives in the building across from Oskar. His grandmother often stays with Oskar while his mother is working and they have a close relationship. The old man doesn't speak but he consents to travel with Oskar on his journey to find the lock that the key opens. Who is this old man and what is his connection to Oskar?
I liked this movie and the themes that it explores. One recurring theme is that you find what you need not what you want. That is something I have found to be true in life and I liked it as a recurring theme in this particular film. I also liked that it dealt with the aftermath of 9/11 and it's associated themes like dealing with the event, and all the loss. I also liked the parental/child relationship that it explored as well. This is a very thoughtful and thought provoking film. It has a solid story and script. There, however, aside from the 9/11 flashback not a lot of action in this film. It is a slow paced dramatic storyline.
I though the acting was well done. Tom Hanks was of course great as the father in the flashback pieces that show us what their life was like before 9/11. He is funny, thoughtful, and just a great dad. Sandra Bullock also does a great job as the mom (Linda Schell) in this movie. She has a very emotional and usual role. Usually, it is a single father that is at a loss on how to connect with their child but here it is a mother. Bullock does an excellent job in this role portraying a woman who is lost. She has lost her husband, and her child seems to hate her for living when his father has died. You can see the conflict and emotions on her face. Bullock does a fantastic job convincing us that this woman could be a real mother somewhere out there dealing with these issues after an event like 9/11.
Thomas Horn does a fantastic job as Oskar. If this role isn't done well, then the whole movie falters. Luckily, Thomas does a great job. You can tell that Oskar is a bright but different child. His whole world is tossed upside down when he loses his father, and the child seems to lose his footing in the world until he finds this key and has a new purpose. There are so many emotions that are shown by the character Oskar, and Thomas does a great job showing us all of them and making it believable.
Another great role was Max von Sydow as the mysterious renter at grandmother's house whose accompanies Oskar on many of his adventures. Max has a very difficult role as his character does not talk but he still needs to be able to convey emotion. He has also been in a catastrophic event much like 9/11 and that is where he lost his voice. He conveys his emotions through written word, and through his facial expressions. Max does a great job showing us the personal journey that this older man is taking even as he helps Oskar with his journey. You can see all the pain and all the joy of this man's life in his eyes and on his face. This is why Max von Sydow was nominated for an Oscar for this role. All the acting was great, and I thought the many characters in this movie were fun to discover and mostly believable.
Overall, I enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It has a great ending; it is worth the journey to get to the end. However, it was kind of slow and it did drag in the middle. For me, it was a good one-time watch. I am really glad I took this journey with Oskar. If you like thoughtful and thought provoking movies, then you should enjoy Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.