Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
It was a risk, casting an unknown in
the primary role, and a child, at that. But
Thomas Horn, who got noticed by winning Teen Jeopardy, is really engaging
as 9-year-old Oskar Schell, the main character in “Extremely Loud and
Incredibly Close.” And it’s no
small feat to outshine Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and hold your own
with Max Von Sydow.
Oskar is a little loner child who is
obsessing about something he found in his Dad’s closet, after his Dad
suddenly disappeared from his life on 9/11/01.
While it’s nothing unusual for a boy to long for an absent
father, it’s especially poignant because Oskar’s Dad’s absence is
clearly not his fault. He happened
to be in a meeting on the 125th floor of the
that fateful day. He left six
messages on the answering machine, and Oskar was standing there for the
last one, and couldn’t bring himself to pick up the phone, so part of
what drives him is guilt, which is a difficult motivation for a
It seems that Oskar finds a key,
inside an envelope with “Black” written on it.
Oskar is convinced that if he could only find what the key opens,
he could somehow re-connect to his father in a new way.
New York City
for people with that last name, and is not afraid to knock on their doors
and speak to them (though supposedly he doesn’t relate well to
Since we’re all uncomfortable with
the idea of a 9-year-old wandering the subways and the boroughs by
himself, enter his grandmother’s “boarder,” Thomas (Max Von Sydow),
who has his own problem with social relations: he doesn’t speak.
He has to write down his responses, which, of course, makes him
about as talkative as a taciturn cowboy on a cattle drive.
But he agrees to accompany Oskar on his quest, while Oskar’s Mom
(Bullock) remains strangely absent, both physically and emotionally.
Director Stephen Daldry (whose
“Billy Elliott” established his credentials as a child-friendly
director) carefully weaves in the back story, of Oskar happily relating to
his Dad, Thomas, Jr. (Hanks), as they made up games together, searched for
things and left clues for one another, and generally enjoyed the kind of
warm, fun, interactive, close relationship that every boy yearns for from
his Dad, but few are privileged to enjoy. We
can see that this whole quest is actually Oskar working through his
extraordinary grieving for his Dad, and while he’s doing that, we are
all reminded all over again about how our whole view of the world changed
on that fateful and momentous day. Literally,
things will never be the same for us, either.
The world is somehow now a more foreboding and dangerous and scary
place, and Oskar reflects all of that, even as we still do.
You’ve probably already figured
out that this is a Kleenex movie. Its
release shortly after the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01 certainly
forewarns you that we are going to re-live that horrific event, this time
through the incomplete emotional filter of a sorrowful little boy.
You will not be unaffected.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim
Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,