Monday, February 6, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Reeling from the death of his father who perished in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 and angry at his grieving distant mother, a nine-year-old boy begins a treasure hunt across the five boroughs of New York City, convinced that a recently found key among his father's belongings will unlock some sort of secret to his life. Director Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot", "The Hours") and screenwriter Eric Roth's ("Forrest Gump", "Munich") adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel has been roundly attacked (even moreso since its Best Picture nod) for its "manipulative" 9/11 plot as well as its "one-note" handling of Asperger's syndrome. These criticisms are largely unfounded and unfairly thrust upon the film. First off, when did tragedies become off-limit subjects for movies? Films such as "Schindler's List", "Tora! Tora! Tora!", "The Killing Fields" among others are made without protest, and yet every filmmaker who presents a 9/11 subject is attacked as an opportunistic capitalist. Secondly, I found Thomas Horn's performance as the grieving, likely autistic young boy to be excellent and a realistic portrayal of someone in that particular situation. The strength of the rest of the film lies in its supporting players. While Tom Hanks is cloying as the father and Sandra Bullock is underused (though good) as the mother, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, and Jeffrey Wright all contribute excellent performances as strangers who help Horn along his journey. I did have problems with the film, ones that differed with the masses however. I would have liked to see more of the city. For a movie that is billed as a child's search throughout New York, the movie is singularly focused on the boy and not so much on the city and its residents. Again, Tom Hanks is really hard to stomach. While I do not think this is a great movie, I do think it is a good one that has been unjustly attacked. I has also done right by its sensitive yet fair game subject.