Movie Review: ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’


‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’

Davalyn Stepzinski

Whether or not you argue certain details that get lost somewhere between the book and the screen, you will find yourself caught up in this film and wondering where you were and how you felt during the tragedy of 9/11.

Seeing as I am one of the millions of people who have no doubt read and loved the novel of the same name by Jonathon Safran Foer, this review will be a difficult one if I am to judge it solely on its own. With that in mind, I would like to make one statement: I believe a movie can be just as good, if not better, than the book it was based on if the director and his team are able to take the material and invoke the general spirit of the novel in the film. It can be loosely translated from the book, but still stay true to the overall story and message and still be successful. For instance, the film “Big Fish” is loosely based on a book by Daniel Wallace of the same name. Many of the stories in it have been left out and replaced with new ones for the film, and while some would have been particularly interesting to see on screen, I would and will still argue that despite the film’s holes, it is a beautiful work.

Similar can be said of the film version of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” It begins with unusual too-slow-to-be-fleeting glimpses of a man in the sky. The direction he is going is up to you, but the direction the film takes from this point can be easy to follow; the story centers on the intelligent young boy Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), who lives in New York City with his serious mother (Sandra Bullock) and his enthusiastic father (Tom Hanks). While his mother keeps the house and its affairs in order, Oskar and his father explore New York City using maps and clues of his father’s creation to find the solutions to creative expeditions. To put it simply, Oskar and his father are very close, which is why when he comes home on 9/11 and hears his father’s voice on the answering machine from inside the World Trade Center, Oskar takes the news hard. Eventually when Oskar finds the courage to go into his father’s closet and sort through his things, he discovers a key in a small envelope with a name on it. At that point, Oskar begins a quest to find who the key belongs to, in an effort that they will be able to tell him something about his father, whose memory he so desperately clings to.

As a film on its own, there are some great sequences that lead us into Oskar’s unusual mind, allowing us the perspective on his fears and how he is overcoming them in order to have more time with his father, on this journey of discovery. One of my favorite scenes involves a rant he gives to another character, explaining how he feels about everything that has happened to him. It is edited in a way that captures the title of the film, so that we can perceive just how many images, noises, interactions, etc., are both stimulating Oskar and overwhelming him at the same time. Like anyone having a case of ‘heavy boots,’ it is a scene instantly relatable.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of weird areas where characters seem suddenly flat or off, which makes parts of the movie begin to lull and sometimes even desensitizes you from the story. Throw that with the question of plausibility in areas of the story and the holes within it that force you to make assumptions. The argument for most is whether or not a child does commonly go off on their own for hours at a time in the city, and whether or not a parent would really allow it. Seeing as this film is based in realism, everything within it should legitimately be able to happen. After reconsidering this question repeatedly and aligning it with the ending of the film, I believe the idea to be reasonable. However, I will let you decide.

In terms of its relation to the novel, the quirky charm is there, however a few aspects I loved were lost in translation. To begin, if you’ve read the book you’ll already know one thing is different just from the trailers – Oskar is wearing colors. In the novel, he has this unusual habit of only wearing white. I had looked forward to how they would translate that to screen, upon hearing it would be made a film, so I was disappointed that they chose to remove that. Oskar is still ingenious and a captivating force on film, however he also has plenty of moments where he comes off angrier than he did in the book and while he tells us he is terrible around new people, I had imagined Oskar to be more of that shockingly naive, honest and nice kind rather than the aggressively blunt and paranoid kind. I was extremely irritated by his relationship with the doorman in the film as well, because it made Oskar out to be rude. The Oskar in the book is painted as more polite than that, which made him all the more endearing. To focus on the other portions of the novel, I was also disappointed that his grandmother’s storyline was ignored and excessively simplified. While I recognize that to go through it as it was done in the novel would and could be its own film, I still assert that it could have been handled better.

All in all, ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ is worth seeing for the heart-breaking story, the refreshing eccentricity of Oskar’s character, and the excellent bits of editing that move this film along and make it compelling.