by: Jenny Tran
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Oscar nominated contender for Best Picture by filmmaker Stephen Daldry, is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story, though rooted in the September 11 tragedy, does not focus on the event. Rather, the movie documents the story of a young 11-year-old boy Oskar Schell who suffers from the loss of his father at the World Trade Center. Oskar, played by Thomas Horn, is convinced his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, left a message for him hidden somewhere in the city. This is the story of his quest to keep his father’s memory alive by searching throughout the Big Apple, the nation’s largest city, for a lock to fit a key.
As Oskar is exploring through his father’s closet, he accidentally knocks over a blue vase and finds a key in an envelope that is simply labeled “Black.” He ponders the true meaning behind the key: Was it left for him or his mother? Did it even have an actual meaning at all? He quickly looks up the name “Black” in the phone book and finds that there are 417 people with the last name “Black” in New York City. Oskar vows to himself that he will meet every person until he finds the key’s lock. As he searches for the lock, Oskar meets many sympathetic yet helpful strangers; however, one stranger stood out from the rest who becomes Oskar’s confidant. Oskar is accompanied by “The Renter,” an old man played by Max von Sydow, who rents a room in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment. As they both become close friends, Oskar learns many lessons from this stranger, such as facing his fears and knowing when to intervene.
As his adventure continues, Oskar’s hope begins to falter and wants to stop until he notices that the stranger he has been sharing his journey with is just like his father. Oskar finally concludes that the stranger is actually his grandfather. Oskar confronts him, but before Oskar can receive any real answers, his grandfather moves out of his apartment and tells Oskar not to search anymore. However, Oskar does not give up. He continues his search until he finds the truth behind the key.
Tom Horn, the actor who played Oskar, who was discovered on the game show Jeopardy, delivers an incredible performance of a young boy searching for answers after his father’s tragic death. While many critics call his character selfish and spoiled, I call him a crushed, grieving character who finds his rite of passage as he overcomes obstacles and faces his own fears.
Stephen Daldry’s film meanders a bit, but the stellar cast, starting with young Horn, as well as the weighty nuances such as Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, make this a must-see film for the New Year. Daldry’s ability to remove the slight ambiguity of the original novel allowed the film to retain the precise symbolism for applying the message to all the hurting people in the world. Furthermore, the movie explores the importance of a three-word phrase that is continuously misused today, “I love you.” Suspend your disbelief on the unbelievable parts and stay to the end. I promise it will be worth it.