Extremely touching and incredibly intense

Jan. 23, 2012, 11:17 p.m. | By Mimi Verdonk | 12 years ago

Cue the "Oskar" nominations

For once a movie lives up to the book's expectations. Great acting, an even greater plot line and near perfect cinematography are sure to leave you crying your eyes out by the end of this film. Though you may come for the title, based on the bestselling novel of the same name, you'll stay for the performances and an emotional rollercoaster that thrills you with every line.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" starts with a flashback. Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) watches from a limo as an empty casket is buried in remembrance of his father, who died in one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. One year later, Oskar, a socially awkward child genius, is struggling to hold on to his father's memory and in turn withdraws from his mother (Sandra Bullock). After the attacks, Oskar develops a fear for loud noises, airplanes and public transit. While searching through his father's closet, Oskar stumbles upon an envelope marked "Black" that holds a mysterious key. The key is the last piece that Oskar has of his father, so he goes on an adventure through New York's five boroughs to find the matching lock. Along the way Oskar meets new people, discovers different places and finds himself on a journey to find his father.

For those who have read the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, much of the same charisma and childhood innocence of Oskar from the book remains. Great direction by Stephen Daldry puts pictures to Foer's words in a way that is enjoyable to the book's readers and non-readers alike. Carefully composed shots, including images of the real 9/11 events, are stitched together so effortlessly that you can't help but remember your own experiences on that day. Though the events are painful, Daldry shies away from the trauma and instead focuses on coping and New York's unity in the time following the tragedy. Whether we had personal loss on 9/11 or not, Daldry asks viewers a larger question: how can we remember the ones we have loved and lost?

The sublime acting stitches together Daldry's great direction and Foer's tear-jerking premise. Only a genuine brainiac could have the guts to play someone as eccentric yet adorable as Oskar Schell. Thomas Horn is exactly that, a real-life child "Jeopardy!" winner, who despite being 14-years-old could pass for 12, or perhaps 10. Tom Hanks plays the perfect father to Oskar, just quirky and goofy enough to get laughs, but whose tears result in true sadness. Sandra Bullock hasn't been this good since "The Blindside" and we all know what that earned her. With the Academy Awards in just over a month, it seems likely that Horn and friends will be up for a few Oscars themselves.

Aside from the casting and script, the movie delivers big visually as well. The shots of Oskar's big blue eyes dispersed between scenes melded flawlessly with flashbacks between 9/11 and his everyday life one year later. The music is grim and eerie, which establishes an appropriate mood as the movie unfolds, sending chills down your spine.

The movie's only downfall comes in the form of character development. Sticking a bit too closely to the book's plot, the movie introduces too many characters who aren't given the chance to develop in the limited time span. Still, all of the film's other redeeming characteristics make it worth both the money and the hype. Extremely emotional and incredibly heartfelt, extremely charming and incredibly powerful, extremely imaginative and incredibly unforgettable, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," is one for the books. Don't miss the chance to see one of the best movies of the 21st century.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (129 minutes) is rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images and language. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tags: Jonathan Safran Foer Sandra Bullock Tom Hanks

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