There is nothing cuddly about Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), the 9-year-old narrator of Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. He’s fretful, voluble, socially awkward—obviously brilliant, but not entirely pleasant company. He confounds his mother (Sandra Bullock) and doesn’t seem to have any peer friends. The only person he can really relate to is his father (Tom Hanks), who sends Oskar off on elaborate reconnaissance missions, all in a sly attempt to get the boy to interact with the world.
The movie is about one last mission his father sends Oskar on—how even in death, the father is still showing his son how to live.
Yes, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is that film—the 9/11 one—and it attempts to negotiate the massive scope of our national tragedy with the tiny world of a socially isolated little boy. A few critics have lambasted the film for being emotionally manipulative—and it certainly is heavy handed at times (this is the same Stephen Daldry who gave us the operatically depressing The Hours, after all).
But when an answering machine containing urgent messages from the World Trade Center left by Oskar’s father—delivered with escalating...