Extremely different but incredibly moving
There are 472 people in New York City with the last name Black, and in the film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” it is the job of nine-year-old Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn, to find each and every one of them. He wants to question them about a mysterious key his father left behind in an envelope with the name “Black” written on it.
Based on the bestselling novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud,” directed by Stephen Daldry, explores Oskar’s peculiar grieving process after his father, played by Tom Hanks, is killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is not the first film to deal with the tragedy of that day, but other 9/11 movies failed to garner as much attention from critics. “Extremely Loud” has already sparked a great deal of debate, some proclaiming it an Oscar contender, while others have vehemently condemned the film for exploiting the 9/11 attacks in order to pry an emotional reaction from the audience. It certainly raises the question of whether or not it’s too soon for 9/11 to become such a frequently explored subject in movies.
Enshrining the attacks in film is certainly one way to ensure they’re never forgotten, and audiences are indeed unlikely to forget a film as emotional and powerful as “Extremely Loud.” Daldry’s film explores how utterly devastated Oskar and his mother Linda, played by Sandra Bullock, are in a very raw manner. The three lead actors play their roles with conviction, especially Horn, who is only just beginning his movie career with a role that is undeniably challenging and emotionally exhausting.
Viewers new to the story may very well be moved by the film, but fans of Foer’s novel will likely be surprised by the movie at best, and at worse disappointed. The movie not only changes one of the book’s main characters and condenses one of its essential plot lines, but it also takes on an entirely different tone than the novel altogether.
Out of the tragic setting, the novel provided a story that was uplifting and inspirational, led by Foer’s quirky but loveable Oskar. Daldry’s interpretation, however, is completely different. Oskar is a great deal more neurotic and angry in the movie, and although much of his behavior is understandable within the context of the story, he is simply not the Oskar that Foer introduced to his readers in 2005.
The film is emotionally heavier than Foer’s witty novel. The differences between the film and novel may suggest that Daldry was simply using Foer’s premise and characters to convey a very different message to his audience.
Regardless, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is still a worthwhile film to see, and is currently playing in select theaters in New York City and will open in theaters everywhere on January 20.
Emily Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.