Rajeev Masand

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Choke!

 
 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Rating: 2

March 02, 2012

Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Stephen Daldry

Some stories are genuinely moving, others so shamelessly manipulative that they come off as crass. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, directed by Stephen Daldry, falls somewhere in between.

Adapted from a polarizing novel, the film focuses on 11-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a socially awkward but remarkably intelligent boy, whose father (Tom Hanks) died in the World Trade Center attacks. Haunted by grief and guilt, and unable to make sense of this horrible tragedy even a year later, Oskar becomes obsessed with solving the mystery behind a key he believes his dad left for him in an envelope simply marked with the word ‘Black’.

Setting off on a search to find the lock that fits this key, Oskar creates an elaborate and methodical project to track down every person with the last name Black in New York City. Before you know it, he’s combing the streets, knocking on doors, and telling strangers his story, in the hope of finding some last message from his father. Even as his mother (Sandra Bullock) struggles to get through to Oskar, the kid finds an unlikely companion in a mysterious old man who doesn’t speak (Max von Sydow).

While there are a few genuinely poignant moments in this film – like one in which Oskar tells his mother he wishes it was her, and not his father, who was killed – for the most part Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close comes off as contrived and exploitative. The suggestion that this kid and his cute project becomes the catalyst of recovery for hundreds of grieving New Yorkers feels cheap, and only undermines the impact of that tragedy.

Tom Hanks, in what’s essentially an extended cameo, seems perfectly cast as the best dad in the world, and Sandra Bullock brings quiet dignity despite the cloying material here. But it’s the supporting cast that’s terrific – particularly Max von Sydow who’s superbly restrained and moving, and Viola Davis who conveys volumes through her eyes.

But the film rests squarely on the tiny shoulders of its young lead, and works only if you’re invested in the character of Oskar, and in the performance of Thomas Horn. Although impressive in portions, Horn’s shrill voice is grating after a point, and it doesn’t help that Daldry saddles the film with an incessant voiceover from the precocious kid.

I’m going with two out of five for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Watch it if you don’t mind being manipulated into shedding tears.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

3 Responses to “Choke!”

  1. Charith says:

    I have not read the book upon which this movie is based,but having seen the movie,i believe that at no point was it conveyed to the audience that the father leaves behind the key for his son.The key merely happened to be inside an envelope,contained in a vase, that was left untouched inside the closet.It is the kid who chances upon the key and assumes that it was left behind for him.It is the kid who concludes that the key is a clue to finding the sixth borough.So,you are wrong to impress that Hank’s character intended for his son to find the key and for the narrative to play out the way it did. And secondly,I never got the feeling that the director wanted us to believe that the young boy was serving as a catalyst in the recovery of a grieving city. We are not told if any of the “Blacks” were personally affected by the big tragedy, in a manner that incapacitated them on a daily basis.To me,they were all a bunch of regular folks who were moved by the boy and his story.We are never made to believe that Oskar had a big impact on any of them.Did they like him?Yes.Were they touched?Absolutely.But did they ‘recover’?Who knows?As an audience we are not even sure if they are in need of recovery,or looking for recovery.We are just informed that everybody had a story of their own.And who doesn’t anyway.For me,the story was simply about a dad who wanted to make things a little more easy for his (probably suffering from Asperger’s syndrome)son,by making him a little more brave.And despite his untimely demise,he manages to accomplish just that,reaching beyond his grave,all because his son is unwilling to let go.It was a very likable film,especially since so many of the other Oscar nominated films this year have been a big disappointment-the likes of Warhorse,The descendants etc.I would certainly rate this movie a three star affair at least.And on a personal note,it is extremely offensive to be commenting on certain issues when you have little understanding of it.Who knows what an autistic child behaves like,and how an actor should portray that.Is there an exact method to the portrayal of a character that is borderline Asperger’s.Again,who knows.So its better if you just steered clear off it.

  2. Mohit says:

    I think the movie is contrived and exploitative because many argue that the novel too is. And the purging of the pain though the kid – that’s symbolic for the 2nd generation interpretation of historic events.

  3. Marc says:

    Leave the fact that the key was totally insignificant, but it brings out the holiness of a young boy who is trying to find a reason y his father died . And the amount of work put in by the director n the lad has to be appreciated! It got an oscar nomination for all the right reasons and the movie is a family watch. I really lived through the movie rather than just watching it….
    I can sure say the movie will keep you interested and is worth your time..

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