Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG)

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Review byMatthew Turner17/02/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

Stephen Daldry's Oscar-nominated drama is well acted and nicely shot, but it's also at least half an hour too long, shamelessly manipulative, prone to mawkish sentimentality and let down by an ending that fails to ring true and feels like a cop-out.

What's it all about?
Directed by Stephen Daldry, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer and set in New York in 2002, a year after young Asperger's sufferer Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) lost his jeweller father Thomas (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Still unable to make sense of his father's loss, Oskar becomes obsessed with a key (labelled “Black”) he finds amongst his father's belongings and embarks on a quest to track down and speak to all the Blacks in the phone book, hoping the key will lead to a message.

Meanwhile, Oskar's mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) is dealing with her own grief and finds it difficult to connect with Oskar the way Thomas did. However, Oskar finds a father figure of sorts in the form of his grandmother's mysterious mute lodger (Max von Sydow), who agrees to help the boy on his seemingly impossible quest.

The Good
Newcomer Thomas Horn does an excellent job as Oskar, but his lack of outward emotion (dictated by his autism) makes him a difficult character to warm to, something that's made problematic by the script's reluctance to explore that aspect of the story. By contrast, Hanks is his effortlessly charming self in the flashback scenes and there's strong support from Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright (as two of the Blacks), while Oscar nominated Max von Sydow generates genuine warmth and provides the film's only real notes of humour as “The Renter”.

The Bad
As with dismal Robert Pattinson weepie Remember Me, it is fair to say that if you have to rely on 9/11 to provide your emotional punches, then something has gone very wrong. As such, Extremely Loud frequently resorts to shameless manipulation (notably in the phone messages Thomas leaves for his family) and is prone to mawkish sentimentality, though it fails to achieve the required result.

On top of that, Bullock is largely wasted as Linda and a late attempt by the script to make her more central to the story has a detrimental effect on the film's climax, because it never quite rings true.

Worth seeing?
Despite strong performances from a superb supporting cast, this is ultimately something of a disappointment, thanks to an overly sentimental script, a punishing running time and a climax that fails to deliver the emotional goods. That said, it is at least historically notable in that all four of the films Daldry has directed have now received Oscar nominations for Best Picture.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG)
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Content updated: 16/08/2018 10:51

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