More than 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, this film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's bestseller Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
reminds us of the human face behind a global tragedy. In this case, it's a child dealing with the aftermath of the event, but its themes of love, loss, grief and hope resonate on a universal level.
The approach might at first seem deceivingly simple. We see the world through the eyes of precocious, super-intelligent nine-year-old Oskar (Thomas Horn), lovingly close to his father Thomas (Tom Hanks), but emotionally distant from his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock).
This child is anything but simple: obsessed by numbers, words, lists, objects and scientific proof, Oskar shows traits of autism, potentially Asperger syndrome. When he loses his father in the September 11 attacks, Oskar drifts further away from his mother, and embarks on a wild goose chase to find the lock that matches a key left by his father.
Handled with sensitivity, this moving drama is a cathartic, personal story that does fine justice to its source material. There isn't much dwelling on the attacks themselves; the hardest part is getting on with life afterwards.
While Bullock and Hanks are the big-name drawcards, and they are wonderful in their roles, it's the mature performance of newcomer Horn, discovered on US game show Jeopardy!
, that really carries the film. He's one to watch.
Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright and Max von Sydow (Oscar-nominated for this role) also lend weight to the proceedings as strangers who Oskar meets.
Some critics have called the film 'manipulative' and 'exploitative'. Those words don't come to mind for me, but the emotion is
dragged out over 129 long minutes. Oskar's 'searching' scenes could really be tightened.
On a better note, New York has rarely looked so hauntingly beautiful on screen, from winter to spring in Central Park, to the transformed Manhattan city skyline.
There are countless 9/11 stories waiting to be told on screen. This is hopefully one of many to come.
Watch the trailer here