Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Review
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gets really close to being a great film. It is unfortunately undone by two major errors.
First and foremost, is the character at the center of the story. Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a terribly written character. He is erratic, unrealistic and annoying. Yet the film expects the viewer to put all their interest in his story and problems. Thomas Horn actually does a great job with the role, but he is severely limited by the writing for the role, which is a lot worse than everything else in the film. I have not read the book, which the film is based on, but it seems the character is written with the intent of making him as original as possible. This results in a character that is only defined by the overabundance of quirks he has. The film actually becomes unbearable when Horn is forced to do a monologue explaining every one of his character's quirks.
The second fatal flaw of this film is its 9/11 background. The core of this film has the potential to deliver a masterpiece. The relationship between mother and son that is at the center of this film is one of the most beautiful pieces of filmmaking all year long. Yet when the 9/11 context is inserted into the film, it just seems like the the filmmaker (or author) had no faith in the story he was telling. It just seems like an easy emotional beat to hit. Had the father (played by the always magnificent Tom Hanks) been murdered by a random person instead of 9/11 hijackers, the film would have been better for it. The film would have put its focus on the family (which the film does at points during its runtime) and this would have resulted in a shorter film (and this film definitely could have used some trimming). What is even worse is that the 9/11 elements just don't feel justified by the end of it. It could have if Director Stephen Daldry spent more time on building up the New York setting, but that is never done.
Despite all of this 9/11 gibberish that the film seems to think is important, the film is a mystery film at its heart. The mystery element isn't a complete success either. The journey to the mystery falls apart midway through as the film tries to turn obvious plot points into twists and the resolution is of course a let down. However, the film redeems itself in the last twenty minutes as it goes back to focus on the family elements that it introduced earlier in the film. These parts are held together by a surprisingly strong Sandra Bullock. Bullock may only be on screen for ten minutes (give or take), but she leaves an immense impact as she creates a three-dimensional character. This is career best work for her. While the film is able to rest itself on Bullock's shoulders, the film actually tells a fully realized story about going through tragedy with the help of family.
It seems like I am really picking apart this film, but this is only because it was so close to being something special. The foundation was there, but the execution was lackluster. There were many problems with this film (the directing and writing were too on the nose, John Goodman was completely wasted), but there were many inspired elements too (Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, the ending, and some of Alexandre Desplat's best music to date).
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