I’ve had a hard time writing my review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – or even beginning it. I worked on a draft, realized it was all wrong, started another draft, pitched that, repeated five more times. I kept feeling like something was missing, but from me, not from the movie.
And then I realized what was missing: my enthusiasm.
Extremely Loud had all the elements of a movie that would move the hell out of me, including Tom Hanks, a precocious kid, a quest and one of our country’s darkest moments. By the end of it, I should have been radiating emotion from my earlobes. But I didn’t. Sometimes a movie is just a movie. You mumble about whatever famous person is in it, you cry a little, you laugh a little, and then you go home. For me, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was “just a movie.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing; lots of good stuff is “just” whatever.
The plot, based on a novel by Jonathan S. Foer, was a winner. In Extremely Loud, Thomas Schell is a New York City jeweler who should have become a scientist. His young son, Oskar, is an inquisitive boy who adores his father and loves going on the city scavenger hunts that Thomas creates for him with elaborate detail. They share everything until Thomas dies in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Oskar finds it difficult to move on until he finds a key in a vase. Whose key is it? What does it unlock? Oskar begins his quest to find out by analyzing the problem like his father would, and he discovers more than he bargained for.
Thomas Horn, who played young Oskar, showed great range and was believable as a brilliant, logical boy with convictions about how the world should work. He surprised me with his authentic outbursts and quiet moments alike, and his progression throughout his quest was amazing. Horn’s interaction with Tom Hanks as his father was joyful to watch. Together, the two were imaginative and playful, and they showed just how much you can engage a child’s brain with a little creativity and encouragement. Their relationship contrasted with Oskar’s relationship with his mother, Linda (played by Sandra Bullock). Oskar and his mom didn’t interact much after the Sept. 11 events, as both continually retired to their own corners to grieve privately. Horn and Bullock had one vividly emotional scene where he volunteered that he wished she had perished in the attack instead of his father, but their relationship was lacking and dry to watch for most of the movie.
But despite the acting and plot, I still wasn’t grabbed by Extremely Loud. Sure, I cried, but I cry at everything so that can’t be a basis for judgement. Something was just… missing. I guess what happens when it’s “just a movie.”