"It does feel as though Stephen Daldry is saying, right - time to cry now," which, to be fair, I did...""
It's incredibly easy to pre-judge a film, and sometimes you make a pun, or play on words on the film's title before even giving it a chance, yet sadly I'm unable to use the 'Extremely Long and Incredibly Boring' wordplay, because Stephen Daldry's latest production isn't particularly either.
Set in New York City during the build-up and then aftermath of 9/11 - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close delves into the life of nine-year-old Asperger’s Syndrome sufferer Oskar (Thomas Horn), who shares a close bond with his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) - who is tragically killed during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
Living with his widowed mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), Oskar finds a seemingly hidden key, in an envelope which simply bears the word "Black" written across it. Given that Thomas always used to set his son on discovery missions to help occupy his proactive mind, Oskar sees it as his father’s final test - to work out who the key belongs to, and which lock it opens.
Oskar, who has trouble connecting with strangers, allows for his grandmother's renter (Max von Sydow) to join him on his formulated quest, despite the German's mysterious inability to speak, communicating solely through written word. Yet the pair work together to help Oskar achieve his goal; to visit every citizen in New York with the 'Black' surname, all 417 of them.
Based on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells a charming and endearing story - and one that is extremely emotive. Despite taking place over 10 years ago, 9/11 still feels extremely fresh and the terrible ordeal remains equally as distressing to the public as it ever has. Therefore, to depict a personal tale about the incident, seeing the tragic occurrence through the eyes of a young boy, provides much sentiment and poignancy to the audience - especially evident in the answer machine messages left by Thomas to his son just minutes before his death.
However, it is difficult to give the cast and crew too much praise for such sentimentality and sorrow within the film, as the story - a young boy with a mental condition, mourning the untimely death of his father - is never exactly going to be a cheerful combination and anything other than an upsetting film would be a complete disaster. Yet, as with any self-discovery feature, there are certainly irritations, as it's difficult not to feel that Daldry hasn't truly earned your sympathy and bereavement with such a palpably emotional story.
Although having said that, Daldry isn't as emotionally manipulative as I had first feared and envisaged, although at points it does feel as though Daldry is saying, "right - time to cry now," which, to be fair, I did.
The most astounding feature to the production and its selling point, is the fantastic performance by Horn in what is his debut feature film. The youngster shines in an extremely mature role, appearing in almost every single scene, and he manages to combine perfectly the naivety and hypersensitivity of youth, with a bold, daring side, combining it all with the mental disorder he must portray in his character.
The other impressive performance comes from von Sydow - despite the vexations surrounding his character. Not speaking with no actual explanation why is too patently and forcefully unconventional, giving the film a touch of 'Juno' about it. The character itself is quite redundant and unnecessary, yet von Sydow brings an amazing humility and sincerity to the role, apparent in every wry smile appearing from the corner of his mouth. Nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards, von Sydow will no doubt be pleased with such recognition, especially considering he had no lines to learn whatsoever.
The film, also up for Best Picture at the Oscars, is certainly one of the weaker links in the short-list, as despite telling a touching tale and featuring strong performances, all feels too 'Hollywood' and slightly too elementary. A tear-jerker maybe, but it's all been done before and Daldry has brought nothing new to the table with this particular offering.