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film review: extremely loud and incredibly close

Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) and his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) have always searched for answers in the city of New York, following clues and making discoveries together. For Thomas, there was a special purpose to these activities: they encouraged Oskar to challenge himself and meet new people. Then, out of nowhere, comes ‘The Worst Day’: 9/11. Thomas is gone, and Oskar is completely lost – with no clues to speak of as to how he is supposed to go on.

One year later, Oskar stumbles across a mysterious envelope in his father’s wardrobe. It is labelled ‘Black’ and contains only a key. In hopes that it may give him some much needed answers, Oskar sets out to solve the puzzle of the key’s purpose. ‘The Renter’ (Max von Sydow), a mysterious man staying in Oskar’s grandmother’s apartment, joins the search but will not reveal his true identity. Meanwhile, Oskar’s mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) is distant, and their relationship is falling apart. It seems that Oskar’s efforts are fruitless, but he is always spurred on by his father’s philosophy: to ‘not stop searching’.

This movie takes a bit of time to appreciate. At first, there are some elements of the story that don’t seem to make sense and are quite jarring. It takes time to understand Oskar, and it is hard to watch such a young character in so much pain. However, Thomas Horn tackles this incredibly well, portraying a very honest character and confronting true despair in his acting. As the story progresses, everything starts to become clear and the film becomes much more engaging.

Where the film really takes a turn for the better is from the moment a relationship between Oskar and The Renter begins to develop. Their chemistry is endearing, and despite the fact that one of them never actually speaks a word, their interactions are a delight to watch. There is also a little bit more humour injected into the film once this storyline takes shape. It is a long film, but the passing of time is much less noticeable from these moments on, and the incredibly moving ending almost seems to come too soon.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based on a novel, and parts of it may be better in their original form. The narration from Oskar in the first half of the film does seem like it might have been more suited to the written word. However, there are moments that are definitely screen-worthy, most notably those including the character of The Renter. The acting is superb across the board, and both Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks are lovely in their roles.

There is a lot going on this movie, and it can be a lot to digest. If it does not capture you in the first half of the film, stick with it because the second half is most definitely worth it.

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