Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Blu-ray | DVD
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Starring Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis
Release Date: March 27, 2012
The opening image of Stephen Daldry‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is of an unidentified man free falling from the sky. Instantly we are reminded of Mad Men‘s logo indicating man’s fall from grace and even reminded of Vertigo‘s poster of man’s infatuation with an uncontrollable fear. Each of these instances depicts a man’s descent from a higher place. In Daldry’s opening, the man is falling out of the sky after trying to escape from one of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attacks. The unidentified man is soon revealed as being Tom Hanks, the father of Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a boy with an intellect well beyond his years. It doesn’t seem to be of any useful assistance, only increasing his stress and worsening his emotional malady. Perhaps his superior intellect is a curse. He will soon fall out the innocence associated with childhood and begin his journey prematurely to adulthood, where uncontrollable fears and falling from grace reign supreme.
Here is a film more concerned about the intimate issues that 9/11 caused rather than the universal calamities that were inflicted upon America almost eleven years ago. This works in the film’s favor. To see a universal tragedy scaled down in order to witness and feel the ramifications it has on a young boy throws audiences into a particular situation that is unencumbered by a director’s will to paint a vast portrait of disaster.
The story of the Schell’s experience with 9/11 is interesting because it has a child at its core. Thomas Horn (of Jeopardy fame) does a wonderful job by not remaining impenetrable like countless child actors before him. He invites us into his character where we will encounter his moral and emotional sentiment, both that are extremely well cultivated at such a young age. And by having a character like this we are able to see 9/11 through the eyes of a polished and smart boy. Drama is undoubtedly heightened when depicting 9/11. But when seeing it through the eyes of a boy the drama grows loftier, inevitably approaching melodrama.
The film jumps back and forth between life with Oskar’s father and life after Oskar’s father. Hanks and Horn have wonderful chemistry and their incredibly close relationship is plausible. This allows this film to linger more so on Oskar’s incessant yearning for his father and the mass confusion that infiltrates his existence. Such a solidified relationship also contrasts very well with the disconnection between Oskar and his mother (Sandra Bullock). Very little time is dedicated to their distant relationship, but when director Daldry decides to show some of their issues, the film is unable to find a sturdy sense of complacency.
Confusion is at its max for Oskar when he stumbles upon a small envelope that has the name ‘Black’ written on it. Inside is an odd-shaped key that Oskar believes not only opens something important, but also is the last connection he has with his deceased father. Taking all that he has learned from his father (playing Reconnaissance’s expeditions around New York City), with aggressive freedom and unerring courage Oskar embarks on an epic journey to figure out what relevance this key had to his father. Throughout his journey, with some help from a mute tenant (played wonderfully by Max von Sydow), he encounters an array of individuals (Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright) with certain temperaments, habits, problems, and characteristics.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based on the acclaimed novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and adapted to the screen by Eric Roth. It might be said that the book works better than the film. The film works best as a coming-of-age story of Oskar finding himself by overcoming his fears. Only when it tries to expand its atmosphere does it prove that it cannot sustain the expansion. Absorbing the emotional impact of the film is near impossible. Too much is trying to be said. There is much familial dissent and mystery that Oskar’s journey could be entirely done away with. But Extremely Loud is about Oskar’s journey and at times it loses its permanency in the film. As a film depicting the mass chaos surrounding the 9/11 attacks, Extremely Loud is up there, but not with the best of them (United 93, 25th Hour). Its ability to recreate the hysteria of that fateful day is the film’s strongest asset, but it is unsustainable as many other ideas and issues plague the film.
HIGH DEF: The picture presented to us is of pristine quality. One wouldn’t expect this Blu-ray to be demo quality because of the film’s lack of special-effects. But its vividness and clarity reveal to those who watch it a slice of a reality that hasn’t been seen so clearly. Certain scenes seem to be animated, as well as characters’ skin tones seem to be. Its widescreen scoop captures New York City at its most beautiful.
Making Extremely Loud (HD): 19mins- A feature of how the book became a movie. Includes interviews of cast members.
Finding Oskar (HD): 7mins- Spotlighting Thomas Horn, the young boy whose first acting job was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close after being discovered on “Jeopardy.”
Ten Years Later (HD): 11mins- Interviewing individuals who found themselves in the midst of the 9/11 attacks and the emotional difficulties that arose while making this film.
Max von Sydow: Dialogues with the “Renter” (HD): 44mins- A documentary by Max von Sydow’s son that highlights Max’s impressive performance and the relationship between Max and his young costar.
UltraViolet Digital Copy: Allows you to stream via Wi-Fi and download to your computer or portable device.
Movie: 3 out of 5
High-Def Picture: 5 out of 5
Special Features: 3 1/2 out of 5