The Films of Stephen Daldry
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (January 22/12)
Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close details the turmoil that ensues for a young boy (Thomas Horn's Oskar Schell) after his father (Tom Hanks' Thomas) dies on 9/11 - with the movie primarily following Oskar as he initially discovers a key left behind by his departed dad and eventually embarks on a quest through the streets of New York to find the lock that it will open. It's immediately apparent that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has its work cut out for it in terms of winning over the viewer, as the film, written by Eric Roth and directed by Stephen Daldry, finds itself saddled with as unlikable and flat-out obnoxious a protagonist as one can easily recall - with Horn's twitchy, mannered performance ensuring that Oskar remains hopelessly unsympathetic virtually from start to finish. (There is, at one point, a hint that Oskar might be afflicted with a mild form of autism, and while that may explain away the character's mannerisms, it certainly does not alleviate the nails-on-a-chalkboard nature of his ongoing presence.) Exacerbating the movie's hands-off atmosphere is the pervasive lack of momentum within Roth's screenplay, as the scripter relies primarily on Oskar's hopelessly dull episodic exploits to propel the narrative forward - although, as becomes clearly almost instantly, there's simply nothing compelling or interesting about the character's continuing endeavors. And while there are a few decent stand-alone sequences sprinkled here and there - eg Oskar learns the truth about his companion's (Max von Sydow) tragic past - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is simply (and ultimately) unable to hit the viewer with the emotional impact that Daldry has clearly intended.