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As we sat in a packed New York City theater for the third screening of Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, yours Cranky took one look at the opening scenes and the following thought flashed through my head: "Oh God not another 9/11 movie." Understand that the month of December is a calendar of days with four screenings a day pencilled in. We know nothing about what we're seeing other than the title and sometimes the headliners. The less we know going in, the more honest the review you get.
Of course, I also didn't know that this film was helmed by the same guy that brought Billy Elliot to life a couple of years ago. Stephen Daldry's work is exceptional and rarely goes wrong. So now that we're all on the same path . . .
IN SHORT: Another Best of the Year listing. [Rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language. 120 minutes.]
Honestly, folks, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had our audience sobbing by its end. Cranky teared up just a little , , , damn that being honest thing . . .and we appreciated that Daldry didn't go for the cheap tearjerker stuff. There's enough emotion packed into his film that he didn't have to [and for readers itching to point out a certain sequence towards the end of the film, it wasn't cheap. Daldry did good. 'nuff said]
Thomas Schell Jr. (Tom Hanks) and his never named wife (Sandra Bullock) are a Manhattan couple. He owns a jewelry store. She works in an office, (we think). Their 12 year old son Oskar (Thomas Horn) is both inquisitive and analytical; the question of whether or not the character has Aspberger's Syndrome comes up once or twice in the film. You can look it up. If you know nothing about it you'll figure it out from Horn's remarkable performance.
As the film begins it is a beautiful September morning in New York. Dad has headed downtown for a meeting of some kind at the World Trade Center. 103rd floor, South Tower. Son Oskar will soon be sent home from school. Never told the reason. Eventually he turns on the home TV to see . . .. well, you know . . .
A year later Oskar ventures into his father's room, something he hasn't done since the attack. He's looking for old 8mm films his father once showed for him. He finds a blue vase in the closet which, once it is accidentally broken, disgorges an envelope with a key in it. Oskar assumes it is a safety deposit box key. Or some other kind of lockbox. With the imagination of any 12 year old running wild, Oskar hypothesizes that the box will contain some sort of message from his deceased dad. One clue: The word "Black" written on the envelope. Just as he had with many other games his father had played (bad writing, fix) Tommy sets out to find out who "Black" is and maybe, open whatever lockbox his father had left behind. That means looking up every person named Black listed in the New York phonebooks.
Gentlemen stop groaning. Take a date. You'll be glad you did (and don't be surprised if the film gets to you, too -- granted, Cranky is now a middle aged softie. We manage not to weep 99.9% of the time, thank you very much).
Oskar's search is not a solo one -- he is accompanied by an old man (Max von Sydow) who rents a room from Oskar's grandmother, who lives across the street. And, for reasons we can't reveal without wrecking the film for y'all, the Third Act belongs to Sandra Bullock. That's all we're going to say. A-list names in supporting roles include John Goodman as a Manhattan doorman and (Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright)
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, he would have paid . . .
9* means we think the film has Oscar etc. potential. It's just easier to start grouping 'em now, at the end of the year.
... [the key is his leading to Oskar's long overdue emotional crackup
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