Today: February 21, 2024

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close DVD

Extremely Loud
& Incredibly Close
falls into a familiar and frustrating
Hollywood trap
: the film takes an interesting story, complete with a
sympathetic and complex set of characters, and then covers them with a barely
concealed layer of clichés and melodrama. The film’s strong emotional core is
spoiled by moments of sensationalised dialogue, which are clearly intended to
target our heartstrings but instead distance us from the film with their transparency.
What we are left with is still an intriguing and moving story, but one which
becomes irritatingly obscured by less-than-subtle dramatic devices.

The film focuses on the
idiosyncratic Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a nine-year-old boy who is
struggling to make sense of his father’s death a year after he was killed in
9/11. The film jumps between Oskar’s quest to solve the mystery behind a key he
finds in his father’s closet, and flashbacks that reveal the close bond he
shared with his dad. The film’s glaring Hollywood sheen is present from the
first of these flashbacks. We see an excited Oskar telling his dad, ‘I found
something from every decade in the 21st century,’ before placing a
rock on the table in front of him. Thomas Schell, played by a wholesome Tom
Hanks
, grins and replies, ‘you rock…he rocks!’, causing the whole family
to burst into nauseating laughter. This scene is an example of the film at its
worst: the corny dialogue and laughing, American dream-style family (who could
be straight out of a cheesy television commercial) are far too contrived to be
realistic.

While these moments do crop
up throughout the film – and don’t become any less annoying – Extremely Loud
& Incredibly Close is far more interesting when considering the characters
and their relationships. Oskar – despite some clumsy overheard narration –
makes for an entertaining protagonist, and the way he interacts with his adult
family members is by turns both moving and amusing. His strained relationship
with his mother (Sandra Bullock) and the unlikely friendship he forms
with the damaged man (Max von Sydow) who rents a room from his
grandmother (Zoe Caldwell), work to create a poignant picture of a
family coping with sudden tragedy. It is this exploration of bereavement, and the
portrayal of a troubled young boy coming to terms with the death of his father,
that are the film’s greatest strengths.

Perhaps if the subject
matter had been given more room to breathe, the film might have felt less
patchy. Unfortunately, the often-hammy dialogue and the film’s conclusion
(which feels far too neat) work against the story, and point towards an
unsubtle attempt at emotional manipulation.

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