Having almost nothing positive to say about a film which revolves around the story of a boy with learning difficulties trying desperately to cling onto a fading memory of his father who was killed in a terrorist attack probably makes me an awful person.
However, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, fails to hit any of those emotive spots it spends the majority of its two hour running time incessantly trying to jab at. It is instead extremely disappointing and incredibly frustrating.
The story follows Oskar Schnell (played by newcomer Thomas Horn) as he diligently tries to solve a final posthumous conundrum set by his late father (Tom Hanks), in turn pissing off his grieving mother (played by Sandra Bullock). His lone journey to find a lock to fit a key he perpetually wears around his neck takes him up, down and around the five boroughs of New York City over three years.
For a while he is joined by a crusty old man whose overall significance to the plot is highly debatable; he doesn’t say a word and spends a lot of the time slowing the journey down by going to the toilet three times an hour.
It’s your typical tale of self-discovery, but the film lacks that certain something that’s needed to communicate this to the audience in a way a novel would easily achieve.
Eric Roth (of Forrest Gump fame) penned the screenplay, so I went in hoping that his script, coupled with Tom Hanks on the billing – who doesn’t love Tom Hanks – would evoke a similar fuzzy feeling inside of me. Instead, I spent the first fifteen minutes feeling irrationally annoyed at how stereotypically ‘daddish’ a doughy-faced, sweater-vest-clad Hanks is portrayed, as he frolics around playing fun-yet-educational games with Oskar.
As soon as that irritation subsided, I then became overly preoccupied with the fact that Oskar continually donned shorts when it was clearly freezing outside. So yes, my main observations are irrational (very), however, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close simply fails to engage its audience in its yarn.
What is actually a truly heartbreaking tale has been sugar-coated by Hollywood; opportunities to convey the sadness of the story are replaced with shots of objects falling to the ground and shattering in slow-motion and a breathy, unnatural narration by Horn, making it almost impenetrable.
With the credits rolling, I left feeling a little bit cheated, a little bit empty; my cold heart was not warmed, merely heated to a tepid state. Despite the fantastic effort by Horn who essentially carries the film on his pre-pubescent shoulders, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close became but a fading blot on my brain by the end of the day.