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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close(2011)
Oskar is convinced that his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a final message for him hidden somewhere in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother and driven by a relentlessly active mind that refuses to believe in things that can't be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father's closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his own loss to a greater understanding of the observable world around him.
For more about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and the Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray release, see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Viola Davis, Max von Sydow, John Goodman
Director: Stephen Daldry
» See full cast & crew
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray Review
Stephen Daldry's contentious Best Picture nominee remains as divisive a melodrama as ever...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 27, 2012
"There are more people alive now than have died in all of human history. But the number of dead people is increasing. One day, there isn't going to be any room to bury anyone anymore. So what about skyscrapers for dead people that were built down? They could be underneath the skyscapers for living people that are built up. You could bury people a hundred floors down and a whole dead world could be underneath the living one."
There is a certain poignancy to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; a poignancy that taps a vein of national tragedy yet tells a very personal, very painful story of life, loss and grief in the wake of 9/11. Unfortunately, that poignancy is continually undermined by director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth's well-intentioned but misguided adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel of the same name (itself an at-times needlessly contrived and overly sentimental account of a deafening event that didn't require a dramatic increase in volume to resonate more deeply). Daldry and Roth not only part ways with Foer and present his young protagonist, Oskar, as a child suffering from autism, Asperger's syndrome or some debilitating combination thereof, they craft a maze of razor-wire heartstrings designed to maim anyone who dares wander inside. The resulting film is as difficult to watch and as emotionally exhausting as it should be, but not for the reasons it should be. Daldry and Roth favor manufactured maneuvering over authentic storytelling, proven tricks of the genre trade over genuinely affecting subtleties, and manipulative musings over raw honesty. Their hearts are in the right place, of that I have no doubt, but they push when little force is required and pull when we're already more than willing to follow.
It's a shame too. The film's performances and the characters' relationships are uniformly strong, Chris Menges' cinematography is striking, and the subject matter, heart-wrenching as it can be, is inherently absorbing. Yes, the story requires tremendous suspension of disbelief -- a much-too-young, socially impaired child roams New York City on glorified scavenger hunts -- and yes, it ends as vaguely and incompletely as it begins. But it centers around an intriguing journey made all the more so by newcomer Thomas Horn's portrayal of Oskar, a young boy who loses his father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), on the morning of September 11, 2001. Extremely Loud opens as Oskar attends his father's funeral, or rather, as he uncomfortably notes, a funeral being held for an empty coffin. Overwhelmed but unable to express his emotions, Oskar searches for some semblance of peace, first from his grandmother (Zoe Caldwell), then from his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), and eventually from his father, who left behind a series of clues Oskar believes Thomas meant for him to find and decipher. So begins a quest for truth and closure in which Oskar's path intersects with those of other individuals directly impacted by the events of 9/11, among them Abby and William Black (Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright), a doorman named Stan (John Goodman), and a mute stranger (Max von Sydow) who survived the horrors of WWII.
Anyone who's spent time with a child diagnosed with autism or Asperger's will appreciate Horn's self-ostracizing performance, not to mention Daldry's thoughtful handling of a prepubescent character dealing with a pervasive developmental disorder and the death of his father. There's nothing quote-unquote Hollywood about either (particularly Horn, who Daldry pursued after seeing the boy on an episode of Jeopardy), even if Hanks' Thomas is a bit too neatly packaged, Oskar's city-wide treks defy good parental sense, and leaps in logic must be taken to garner anything meaningful from the story as told and the ending as delivered. There is, however, something distinctly Hollywood about other things Daldry transplants from Foer's pages to the screen. Oskar may be a convincing autistic child on the surface, but his thoughts aren't those of a child, autistic or otherwise; they're the thoughts of an adult novelist as funneled through an adult screenwriter. It's Foer and Roth's voices, their musings, their commentaries I kept hearing. Their words coming out of Oskar's mouth. Worse, presented as a disconnected but simultaneously precocious savant, Oskar drifts dangerously close to becoming a hastily manufactured vessel rather than the wise-beyond-his-years boy he's meant to be. His condition and the events of 9/11 are merely used as means to an end, and each one tends to distract and detract from the weight and impact of the other.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is and will remain a divisive drama, though, and not just because of its surprising Best Picture nomination and admittedly powerful performances. Alongside every dismissive review exists what can only be described as a thank you letter to Stephen Daldry. Some lose themselves in Oskar's grief and deep-seated desire to hold onto his deceased father, forging a bond with the boy that breaks through the rampant fiction of it all. Others connect with Linda, or Stan, or Abby, or William, or the Renter, excavating the truth in their pain with the help of Bullock, Goodman, Davis, Wright and von Sydow's deft touch. Where the particulars of the plot and production blinded me to what I'm sure some will call the real value of the film, the images and tragedy of 9/11, the struggles of a widow and newly single mother, and the emotion churning just beneath Oskar's at-times infuriatingly still waters will blind others to the particulars of the plot and production. Had I watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on a different day, I may have had an entirely different reaction to it. And while that may frustrate anyone compiling opinions in search of a clearcut verdict, it's telling. Film is meant to move us, but rarely, if ever, does one film move all of us. Oskar's journey brought me to tears, but only by proxy. I'm a dad, and here's a boy who lost his dad. I'm a husband, and here's a wife who lost her husband. I remember the weeks and months following 9/11, and here's a film that revisits the ensuing unease, heartbreak and grief without respite or much relief. Who wouldn't shed at least a solitary tear? But none of that makes Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close the film it could have been, might have been had Daldry and Roth allowed Thomas' death, Linda's loss, Oskar's dormant despair, and the ache of 9/11 to speak for themselves. But I suppose Extremely Subdued and Tactfully Close wouldn't be a film for everyone either.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray, Video Quality
Push in as close as you want. It's extremely difficult to find fault with Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer, even when Daldry and cinematographer Chris Menges are dealing in muted shadows, humorless primaries, and grief-stricken skintones. Though far from colorful, the image exhibits a warmth that's both natural and disarming. Saturation is impeccable and black levels are deep and satisfying; contrast is consistent and delineation is excellent; detail is exacting, with wonderfully resolved fine textures and revealing closeups, and edges are crisp, clean, and free of ringing and aliasing. Moreover, artifacting, banding and other irritations are nowhere to be found, and the presentation will even draw in those the film holds at a distance.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is much more subtle but no less effective. Dialogue is clear, perfectly intelligible and firmly rooted in the film's already immersive sound design, and Oskar's narration drifts over the stillness of the soundscape, exactly as it should. The rear speakers aren't aggressive per se, but they aren't neglectful either. Traces of New York City permeate the entire soundfield, while everything from passing crowds to impatient traffic, distant sirens, rustling Central Park foliage, and crisp, cool winds make their presence known. Interior acoustics are wholly convincing as well, and the hushed conversations between Oskar and the Renter are among the finest the film has to offer (in spite of the fact that they're also among the quietest). What's more, directionality is precise, pans are agile, and LFE output, though a bit underwhelming, sacrifices any sense of loudness to give its all for the more nuanced needs of the film. I doubt casual filmfans will realize just how affecting the mix often is, but audiophiles will take note and sing its praises accordingly.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I felt as if Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were pulling me through the crowded streets of New York City in the weeks following 9/11, whispering cry, cry, cry as it yanked me along. But I didn't need to be dragged, kicking and screaming. Such profound tragedy and loss speaks volumes without any help, and all but demands a deep emotional reaction. Other critics and filmfans have really connected with Daldry's adaptation, though, all while wondering how it is that some of us walk away feeling as if we've been manipulated and abused. If Daldry had shelved the melodrama and focused on the human drama, I might have been moved to less cursory tears. I cried over a boy's loss, a mother's grief, a city's despair, and the families of the victims of 9/11; not necessarily Oskar's loss, Linda's grief, or Extremely Loud's overly sentimental shades of despair. But maybe that's just me. As divisive a film as it is, you would be wise to, at the very least, rent it and give it a try. Thankfully, Warner's Blu-ray release is a terrific one, with a striking video presentation, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a supplemental package that parts from the pack in welcome ways. Suffice it to say, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is worth watching, whether you come away shaking your head or wiping your eyes.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Other Editions
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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Blu-ray - February 22, 2012
Warner Home Entertainment will bring Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to Blu-ray next month. Director Stephen Daldry's film stars newcomer Thomas Horn as Oskar Schell, a young boy who sets off on a quest of self-discovery through New York City one year after ...
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