When I think of the movies made in the last ten years that deal with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and their effect on American lives, two immediately stand out for their bold, direct portrayal of the situation: ‘United 93‘ and ‘World Trade Center‘. While the theme has blended into many more movies that talk about post-9/11 America, none have congealed into as intimate or honest a depiction. ‘Reign Over Me‘ came close, but ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ does it in a superior and much more fluid manner. It’s not only one of the very best 9/11 movies, it’s also one of the best movies of 2011.
Young Oskar and his father (Tom Hanks) used to play a lot of games together – not the traditional board games that you or I might play as a family, but big adventures across town looking for clues that would unlock certain mysteries. Ever since the father’s death in the 9/11 attacks, the boy has been tortured by loneliness. Although his mother (Sandra Bullock) is still around, the two manage their grief separately.
When Oskar sneaks into his dad’s undisturbed closet one year after his death, he finds a key, a clue to another big mystery that they had not yet begun investigating. All alone, Oskar starts off on his father’s last game, a big one, to find the lock that this key belongs to and discover his dad’s final message.
Where ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ could have played the manipulation card to stir up audience sympathy, the film never comes across that way. The intimacy of the story prevents it from feeling like it’s plucking strings to get at your emotions. Instead, it feels like you’re enveloped in this journey to have one last minute with your own father.
‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ is hard to watch at times, but it gives you a peek into what it may have been like to have the World Trade Center tragedy personally affect your life. It’s filled with heart and earns honest attention. First-time child actor Thomas Horn will win you over, and Sandra Bullock gives a subtle performance that’s more deserving of an Oscar than the scenery-munching in ‘The Blind Side‘ that she actually won for. If ‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ isn’t opening in your area on Christmas Day, don’t fret – it expands nationwide on January 20th.