Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Directed By: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, and Zoe Caldwell

For all of us, September 11th, 2001 is a day that will be etched in our memories until the day we die.  We'll never forget the devastation that took place in New York and DC on that day.  Having just recently marked the tenth anniversary of one of the most tragic days in American history, it's fitting that Hollywood has decided to take another crack at making a great 9/11 movie.  Since it's been done before, they had to do things a little differently this time around.  With Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, they decided to look at the grief of a young boy whose father died at the World Trade Center and how he chooses to cope with it.

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) has a very loving relationship with his father Thomas (Tom Hanks).  They learn together.  They play together.  They laugh together.  Thomas routinely sends Oskar on reconnaissance missions to learn more about the world and how to live in it.  When Thomas dies in the World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks, Oskar finds himself lost.  Though he still has his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), he's lost his kindred spirit, the one person who seemingly understood him and thought like him.  When rummaging through his father's belongings a year after the attack, he finds a hidden key.  He decides to go on one last reconnaissance mission to figure out what his father's key opens.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close never quite gets off on the right foot.  Based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, the movie never finds the right tone.  Despite fine acting from a cast that includes the likes of Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Viola Davis, director Stephen Daldry can't figure out whether he wants this story to be primarily depressing or primarily uplifting.  He revisits 9/11 twenty times to bring the audience's mood down over and over again.  At the same time, he tries to tell an uplifting story of a boy confronting his grief and finding a way to move forward with his life.  Switching between these two topics continuously may work in the book, but it certainly does not in this movie.  It just creates awkward tonal shifts.  When Daldry finally does make a decision about the film's tone, it's too late.  I've already figured out that my viewing should include a few drinks.

My biggest problem with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is that Thomas Horn's Oskar Schell is extremely dry and incredibly annoying.  I understand that September 11th instilled a lot of fear in the hearts and minds of many people, but there is a certain point at which this becomes ridiculous.  This kid has so many fears that he claims to actually be afraid of people eating meat.  His illogical fears are quite nerve wrecking to watch throughout the film, and it reflects some really oddball writing.  It makes Oskar more annoying if anything.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not a film I ever want to see again.  It's slow.  It's boring.  It's unnecessarily depressing at times.  We all were around for 9/11.  There's no need for Stephen Daldry to shove it down our throats multiple times throughout the film.  We know what happened, and we certainly won't forget.  We already understand the kid's pain.  This constant reflection on the past undermines the uplifting nature of the story he's trying to tell.  Daldry's latest film gets a 0.09% rating.  Get tipsy with a few lemon drop martinis for this one.