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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow | Review

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Tom Hanks,  Sandra Bullock,  Thomas Horn,  Max von Sydow | Review

Here’s another lock-and-key drama (remember Hugo?) except this time it’s a key looking for a lock.  The key is in the hands of nine-year old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) whose father Thomas (Tom Hanks) died in one of the twin towers on 9/11.

Father and son were close and shared adventures of discovery, designed by Thomas to make his son, (who tested “inconclusive” for Asperger’s Syndrome) think critically and logically.

Asperger’s is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.  Oskar is precociously intelligent and frequently irritating in his behavior and observations.  He’s belligerent with his building’s doorman (John Goodman) and not easy to love.

Oskar’s mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock) grieves differently for Thomas and the two seem not to “get” each other.  Oskar even hides his father’s anguished 9/11 taped phone messages from his mother, never once letting her hear them.

The boy’s analytical mind searches for a lock to a key he finds one full year after his father’s death.  Hidden on the upper shelf of a closet, inside an envelope with the word Black written on it, the key launches Oskar’s citywide quest to contact any person with that surname, convinced that it will bring him closer to his father’s memory (which he is afraid he’s losing).  He undertakes a methodical search through the five boroughs of New York each Saturday, a different Black (or two) in his sights each time.

In order for Oskar to function during his search, he must battle his fear of noise, crowds, being touched, and speaking to people.  He takes a tambourine with him for the familiar, comforting sound it provides.  On his travels he encounters mostly sympathetic and receptive strangers and once in a while, a curmudgeon who will not entertain his story.

Oskar turns to his paternal grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) when he can’t sleep at night.  She comforts him by walkie-talkie and her apartment harbors a mysterious old man that Oskar knows only as the Renter (Max von Sydow).

A chance encounter leads to an introduction between the mute Renter and the turbulent boy, and the two search the city together until Oskar unloads the heavy burden of his grief, anxiety, sadness, guilt, anger, and confusion over the loss of his dad.

An overwhelmed Renter abandons not only the search, but his room as well, leaving Oskar to figure out lots of things about relationships, pain, consideration and perseverance.  The latter trait aids him in his key-quest and Oskar finds that he’s been assisted by a surprising source.

Thomas Horn carries the film on his impatient shoulders, and a large indicator of whether you’ll like what you see is how you tolerate Oskar.  He can be loud, obnoxious, pushy, odd, insensitive, judgmental and annoying.  It helps that he’s also unpredictable and determined.

Tom Hanks’ character, seen in flashback, is such a palpable, supportive presence that the viewer misses him, too.  Sandra Bullock is low-key in Linda’s grief, as calm as Oskar is volatile.  Max von Sydow seems never to age, conveying the same tired wisdom in his countenance that’s been his trademark for decades.

Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) helms a poetic, improbable film that encounters the profound within the mundane and looks with new eyes at the horror of 9/11 through one child’s mission, guided by good memories, bad dreams and inability to process the events that removed his father from his life.

Screenwriter Eric Roth (The Insider) adapted Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel.
The title comes from Oskar’s homemade memoir of the events of that day, when planes flew into building s and people flew out of windows.  Oskar’s angst and the Renter’s loss for words could very well be our own.

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