It's been over 10 years since the horrible events of 9/11 and Hollywood continues to revisit that infamous day through a variety of film adaptations. The latest movie to touch on the tragedy of September 11, 2001 is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the sometimes touching and often frustrating recount of Oskar Schell, a 9-year-old boy living in New York City whose Dad dies in the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Early in the movie (directed by Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader helmer Stephen Daldry) we see Oskar's strong relationship with his father (played in a not-so-lead role by Tom Hanks) which ends up powerfully affecting Oskar's ability to face live without his dad. A year after 9/11, Oskar finds a key hidden in a vase that his Dad owned. He believes he needs to find what lock the key opens to uncover a mystery his Dad left for him. Most of the movie recounts Oskar's experience in trudging around NYC, asking random people if they knew his father and finding surprisingly warm reception from the normally cold-natured people of Manhattan. Sandra Bullock is properly cast as Oskar's Mom who must deal with a troubled son and her recent status as a widow.
Oskar is played by newcomer Thomas Horn, a kids Jeopardy champion who apparently had no acting experience prior to this film. Unfortunately for us, it shows. Horn is quite annoying throughout the movie, overacting through all the scenes in which he shows his sadness and frustration with his dad's death. I became annoyed with him early-on and just felt disconnected for the rest of the film. Towards the middle of the movie, Oskar meets a strange friend of his grandmother's, known only as "The Renter". The Renter is played wonderfully by film veteran Max Von Sydow who in a non-speaking role is able to convey a wealth of emotion. Von Sydow ends up being the star of the film and fortunately is able to carry Horn's lack of experience in the scenes they share together.
The end of the film is sad and touching and did pull a creeper or two from my eyes. I wish I was more emotionally invested at that point though but Horn's weird performance kept me disjointed and leery of Oskar's emotional struggle. I have to give this movie a 2.5 out of 5 JRs. The plot is really all over the place and despite the solid acting from Hanks and Bullock and the great supporting performance turned in by Von Sydow, the amount of screen time given to Horn is just too much to overcome. A more polished child actor could have saved this film somewhat. This is only worth a rental and should probably be viewed on a day when everything is going right and you really are prepared to feel depressed for a while.
NOTE: I hope to manage to fit in my 2011 Best Movies post at some point over the next few weeks. I am scheduled to undergo neck surgery to fuse a couple discs on February 3rd. It might actually be good for me to write my post after my surgery since i'll have a week or two of recovery time. I plan on having the Best Movie post and the Oscar preview/picks post up before the Oscars air in late February.
NOTE TWO: The Academy Award nominations will be announced live tomorrow morning.