Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn and Max Von Sydow star in the double Oscar-nominated Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.
Despite a number of unimpressive reviews from critics across the pond, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has garnered two Oscar nominations, including a controversial nod for Best Picture ahead of more critically lauded pictures such as Drive and Shame.
So what is it the Academy saw that escaped the eyes of the reviewers? It certainly wasn’t emotion anyway.
The story concerns Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a precocious but troubled young boy who is struggling to cope with the loss of his father (Tom Hanks) who was in the World Trade Center at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York.
What follows is a kind of fairy tale in which Oskar undertakes a search across the city, chasing down metaphorical bread crumbs in a quest he hopes will keep him close to his deceased father. However, in a post 9/11 New York the danger doesn’t come from wicked witches or wolves, but the intangible spectre of terrorism that lurks in every subway, bridge and skyscraper.
It’s a story that’s often interesting but the scenes of emotional complexity are too quickly muted by the film’s overly sweet and sentimental tone. Conflicts are short lived and never promise to have any real consequence on a set of uniformly sympathetic characters.
Tom Hanks is likeable as ever and Max Von Sydow is very watchable in his enigmatically nice old man duties. Thomas Horn’s Oskar shows signs of real pain and depth at times but is never far from a selfless act or consoling hug and even the occasionally swear word or colourful insult jar a little when coming from a character seemingly devoid of menace or humour.
Sandra Bullock is fine as Oskar’s affectionate but struggling mother, but it’s a role that has comparatively little weight and we only get a glimpse of the depression caused by her husband’s passing. John Goodman makes an appearance as disinterested Stan the doorman but isn’t afforded the screen time to provide the charisma the film needs and he is capable of providing.
Pacing is also a little slow and there’s the impression that there are more than one or two scenes designed to tug on the heart strings rather than build the story or push the film along to its conclusion. The viewing time of 2 hours 9 minutes feels unnecessary and if 20-30 minutes were left on the cutting room floor it would be no bad thing.
Best picture of the year? No, but Extremely Loud does have some interesting ideas and Thomas Horn deserves recognition for bearing such responsibility in a film with a raft of accomplished actors but neither of things can raise the story out of the dense sentimentality long enough to make a sizable impression. Not a movie for the cynical or those short of patience.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Catch a trailer for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqfA1BocV44