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Posts Tagged ‘ Thomas Horn ’

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The problem with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is pacing. It consistently relies on wunderkind Thomas Horn to carry scenes that should be weightless – if only the intervening narrative wasn’t so dense. Having said that…

First off, let’s hear it for Thomas Horn. The guy went from winning Kids Week on Jeopardy! to starring in this year’s most-blatant-Oscar-bait so far. And he’s Good. We’re talking Corey Feldman good here.

There’s something very engaging about him, in an earnest, endearing sort of way. Like a young Owen Wilson. He’s believably wise, while innocent enough to still come across like a kid – even if his dialogue does get a bit pretentious at times.

Spurred by a perceived message from his late father, Oskar Schell (Horn) goes on a systematic search through the five boroughs of New York for answers to a question too vague for him to put into words. Superficially, he’s found something that belonged to his father and wants to know more about it. But the subtext here doesn’t so much hide between the lines as hover between the screen and your face.

On September 11th, 2001 – Oskar’s father jumped from the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. In the same way that if it weren’t for World War 2 we wouldn’t have The Pianist, Band of Brothers or the Call of Duty franchise, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close wouldn’t exist were it not for 9/11.

What’s effective about this film is the frustrating reality of the WTC attacks. More than once Oskar laments the maddening concept that his father was killed by someone he never met, because they decided to fly a plane into a building.

So we watch him try to make sense of something that basically doesn’t make any. And somehow it manages to feel simultaneously abnormal and authentic. I’m gonna put that one mostly down to the casting.

With just a few short scenes Tom Hanks, once again showing us why they pay him the big bucks, quickly creates a character that you miss as soon as he’s gone. There’s never a question why Oskar is so driven to maintain the fresh memory of his father – you can Feel Hanks’ absence in the latter half of the film.

Equally compelling as the shell of Oskar’s mother is Sandra Bullock, reminding us why she used to be famous by delivering a careful performance as a numb, hollowed out mom trying to keep it together. Her shaky relationship with the undeniably difficult Oskar forms the raw, exposed heart of the piece.

Playing Hanks’ understudy is Max Von Sydow; a mute, similarly shell-shocked neighbour-with-a-secret who stands in as ‘daddy’ during the second act.

And rounding it out is the sprawling network of surprisingly fleshy bit parts given to the dozen or so strangers who act as stops along Oskar’s locomotive quest. Most prominent is Abbey and William Black (Viola Davis and Jeffery Wright) – a couple in the midst of a divorce (in America – can you believe it?) when Oskar comes knocking on their lives waving his tambourine.

Oskar also suffers from what looks like extreme agoraphobia, with the noise of his tambourine standing in for the calming presence of Hanks while he’s out on his solo adventure. The scenes that elucidate his fears are some of the most visceral in the film. The volume of certain things – doorbells, sirens, planes overhead – is uncomfortably loud and serves to put you in his mind-set as he tries to steel himself against his own fear.

Despite its dark subject matter it’s an optimistic film. In fact it left me thinking that, cynicism notwithstanding, if this film is anything to go by – maybe America is finally starting to get over 9/11.

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