Thomas Horn   Sandra Bullock   Tom Hanks   Max von Sydow   Viola Davis   John Goodman   Jeffrey Wright


 The fact that director Stephen Daldry has made three films (The Reader, The Hours, Billy Elliott) and he has been nominated for best director for all of them says a lot! It says to me that he will repeat that feat with one of the year’s most tongue twisting titles: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. This will mark the first “American” film that the English director has delivered, but it's power, as compared to his others, is equally as strong. This film is the 11thhour contender for The Oscars, reminiscent of how Clint Eastwood unveiled Million Dollar Baby. If you call this the 9/11 Bullock/Hanks film, it might get more people interested in it than the crazy title, but it’s so much more than a 9/11 movie.

Nine year old Oskar Schell (Horn) suffers a life changing experience when his father, the light of his and his mother’s life, is killed in the World Trade Center Attacks. Thomas (Hanks) wasn’t your ordinary father and Oskar is an extraordinary boy; the two had daily oxymoron battles, talked until they fell asleep every night and Thomas, who suffered his own difficult childhood, went above and beyond to create adventures for Oskar. “The worst day” changed all of that. Something else happened on the answering machine that day and Oskar has been hiding this from everyone, even his mother (Bullock). By chance, Oskar finds a key in his father’s closet and is convinced the key will unlock something connected to his father.

The film opens with an unusual image of a man moving erratically. It’s very quiet and almost peaceful, as if the man is flying; it’s a confusing image, but ultimately one that is explained to be a devastating truth. “If there is anything you want to believe, you can find the reasons to,” Thomas tells his son. That seems to be the overall theme of the film, which is really an adventure that is similar, but more emotionally compelling and engaging, than Hugo. Once again we see another film with a tremendous young talent aiming for the family genre. However, with so many difficult and emotionally gut wrenching moments, this may not appeal to young children. What Oskar is experiencing emotionally and physically is not the kind of thing you particularly enjoy watching.

With many of my favorite movies this year, there is a defining moment; for this one, it’s a scene with Oskar and his mother in which the clever and well spoken nine year old says the most horrible thing I have heard one character say to another all year long. It takes an experienced and emotionally invested actress to respond in the humanly correct way, and Bullock gets it. It’s a scene that will haunt me forever, especially her reply. Daldry understands he can’t constantly kill us with emotion and subdues those hard scenes with lighter ones, just enough to get our eyes dried before the next one begins. Max von Sydow’s character is used as some of the comic relief. While his character never utters a single word, the 81 year old actor is a likely contender for best supporting actor.

Horn, whose claim to fame was being on Jeopardy, stuns in his first acting debut. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a young Jamie Bell under Daldry’s direction in Billy Elliott; there are so many similarities. If anything, 2011 has proved that actors under the age of 18 can, will, and are as powerful as those over the age. Horn’s performance, clearly guided by Daldry, is fantastic. Oskar reminds me of a homeless person with all his tics, how he carries a tambourine everywhere (shaking it to calm his nerves), the way he interacts with strangers, but most of all, his uncontrolled emotional outbursts. His performance and the entire film engage the audience in a way I didn’t feel during Hugo. Viola Davis, the score, Bullock and Hanks are all beautifully orchestrated by Daldry, who composes one of the most touching and unforgettable films of 2011.

 Final Thought – The film I would be delighted to see represent 2011 with a best picture trophy.

Grade A-

By: Dustin Chase W.

Editor: Michael Woody

Dr. Donna Copeland’s


This film is engaging and even exciting at times, but the main character is simply not believable.  Obviously, the material was written by someone who has little experience with real kids and how they talk and behave.  Moreover, although we find out something different at the end, it is not plausible that a mother would allow a child of that age free rein to go off on his own in New York City day after day.  Additionally, the mother seems very different during most of the film, compared with how she relates to Oskar in the last scenes.  

 Nevertheless, the movie has a lot going for it, and the screening audience seemed to enjoy it and were inspired by it.  The director (Stephen Daldry) and main writer (Eric Roth) both have substantial reputations for their work, and all the actors are very fine in their roles.  The pace is good, and the characters are appealing and, except for the Oskar character, plausible for people one might encounter in New York.  I especially enjoyed the mother’s response when Oskar confesses he wishes she had died rather than his father.  When in a few moments he says he didn’t really mean that, she replies, “Yes, you did” with a tone of “and it’s all right, too.”   The story will probably be inspiring to many in terms of a child feeling guilty and trying to solve a mystery to reconnect with his father, his finding a couple of father figures to help him out along the way, and, finally, his working through his grief and anger enough to feel close to his mother again.  

 Although I have heard some complaints about bringing the Twin Towers attack into the story, my opinion is that it fits very well, and provides an explanation for all the people named Black that he contacted to be open to him.  Without that part of his history, I doubt many people would respond so well to a random child ringing their doorbells.

Grade:  B