Friday, March 09, 2012

Deafening rumination

A little over a decade after 9/11, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” reminds us that the wounds are still there, that the attacks will remain unbelievable and senseless. Dealing with a particular family’s grief and resilience during the aftermath, the Stephen Daldry-directed film sharply reflects the trauma felt and experienced by the victims’ kin.

Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock portray loving spouses Thomas and Linda Schell, proud parents of unusually intelligent Oskar, played by Thomas Horn. After his father’s death, Oskar and Linda grieve differently, and slowly begin drifting apart. The kid hopes to solve one last puzzle that his father left him, which requires identifying the owner of a key and what it opens.

“Extremely Loud…” spends most of its time detailing the boy’s quest; he tries to find answers from disparate places and people, and the film is told from his less-than-perfect perspective. It seems like a perfect fit for Daldry, though, who directed “Billy Elliott.” But this film’s child actor isn’t always effective. Now, Horn is pretty good in some scenes, but can be quite annoying in others where he’s not required to be. Still, the kid shows promise and can improve.

And yes, the Oskar character gets unsympathetic. He’s condescending and disrespectful sometimes, which makes rooting for him difficult. Like the characters he approaches, though, you’ll find yourself humoring him, just to get things over with.

While not always around, Linda is still a sweet and reassuring presence even when Oskar doesn’t see her as such. Bullock’s performance is likewise reassuring, providing the film with some of its most dramatic, tearduct-loosening moments. 

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