This did not deepen my empathy for the victims of 9/11 or expand any significant knowledge. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has a kid embarking out on a citywide quest a year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, to find out the importance of a key left behind which was in a sealed envelope labeled “Black.” The 9-year old kid Oskar (Thomas Horn) is no ordinary kid, of course. In addition to precocious intelligence Oskar is also an arrogant, self-righteous, condescending know-it-all who understands the tragedy of 9/11 more than anyone else, more than you and me. He is an awful kid that some find endearing just because he has determination.
His wonderful father died on “the worst day.” Tom Hanks is certainly wonderful in everything he does, and he is an unwearied and motivating father up until his fateful moment. In the aftermath, Oskar believes his father was one of the “jumpers” that leaped out of the building to their death to avoid the fire. So he prints out magnified pictures of the jumping dead. Is that supposed to be a way to memorialize him?
Oskar is diligent on his quest but unkind, particularly to his doorman (John Goodman) who he is mean to during the entire film for no reason. But there are darker spells of anger within him. Bent with rage he tells his mother (Sandra Bullock) that he wishes it was her and not dad that died on 9/11. In an honest drama, Oskar would spend the remainder of his youth working up a genuine apology for saying that. But instead, he drags a mysterious speechless octogenarian (Max von Sydow) into his quest. Of all the New York strangers he meets, there are two familiar character actors (Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright, splendid in their brief appearances).
I just about liked anybody that wasn’t Oskar. So I looked forward to the supporting cast to shine a light on, well, anything. I will say that because Oskar has certain obsessive behaviors and antagonistic in conversational encounters it is brought up that Oskar might have Asperger’s Syndrome, but that the test results were “inconclusive.” Yet why the hell does Asperger’s even have to enter a story about 9/11 wounds in the first place? The kid’s belligerent attitude smokes over all the themes.
125 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
DRAMA / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / DOWNHEARTED
Film Cousins: “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004); “United 93” (2006); “World Trade Center” (2006); “August Rush” (2007).