Posted: 01/22/2012


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a movie that tells the story of a young boy who loses his father in the 9/11 terrorism attacks. His father Thomas Schell, played by Tom Hanks, gets trapped in one of the World Trade Center towers, and he tries to reach his family, as he’s waiting for rescue. But he never reaches his family—the young boy, Oskar played by Thomas Horn, and his wife played by Sandra Bullock—he’s only able to leave a few voice messages on the phone.

Oskar is a smart, nerdy type who always loved sitting under his father, who was a jeweler, and playing brainy games of adventure. When he suddenly finds a key in a vase in his father’s closet, he feels that the word “Black” on the envelope means that there is someone in the five boroughs of New York with the name Black to whom the key belongs. He also feels that the key will unlock something that his father wanted him to discover.

So, he sets out on his travels on Saturday mornings, walking through the five boroughs, because he is sadly afraid of many things now, since the 9/11 attacks. He certainly won’t take the subway. And he’s grown estranged from his mother, so he won’t let her in on anything. He desperately misses his father.

Along the way, he runs into a couple on the verge of splitting up, Abby Black played by Viola Davis and William Black played by Jeffrey Wright. He also makes acquaintance with his grandmother’s tenant called ‘the renter,’ played brilliantly by veteran actor Max von Sydow. The man never talks, because of traumatic experiences in his own life. But he does communicate by writing notes. He joins Oskar in his pilgrimages to the city. As they spend more time together, Oskar figures out that there is a mystery about this man that is important to his family.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a good, sad movie about how the 9/11 attacks affected one young boy, who seems more lost than ever since his father died. He questions why there was a funeral with no one in the casket—not wanting to believe his mother that it would help provide closure. He questions why his father left him and why people who didn’t know any of the people who perished in the attacks would dare want to harm anyone. He also questions why the renter refuses to talk.

Although at times Oskar got on my nerves, I can’t begin to understand the pain that he is portraying in the movie. The scenes with his father are played through flashbacks, and there are also flashbacks through news clips of the actual 9/11 attacks. At the end, Oskar does find a lock for which the key belongs; but it’s not the ending that he was expecting. But he does, surprisingly, develop a newfound love for his mother.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a good film that shows the great multi-cultural, melting pot that is known as New York City—with many of the people sowing their own oats of sorrow. It is playing in local theaters.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen Is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago, who also serves as a news editor for

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