After losing his father on 9/11, a young boy tries to trace the origins
of a key that he believes has an important connection to his father.
I had heard for years that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was the worst film ever nominated for Best Picture. That it was trite, cheesy, sappy, and boring. First of all, in my experience, I can name at least five films way less deserving of a Best Picture nomination (Doctor Dolittle, She Done Him Wrong, Hamlet, Driving Miss Daisy, Airport). Second, you've got this film all wrong. To me, it's a film that shows you grief and mourning through the eyes of a child. Things are going to be exaggerated, things aren't going to always make sense. If you can accept that you're watching the immediate aftermath of 9/11 through the eyes of a young boy, this film becomes a whole lot better and a whole lot smarter.
Meet Oskar (Horn, who wasn't the best actor), a young, possibly autistic child who just lost his dad (Hanks) when the towers fell on 9/11. His mom (Bullock) struggles to cope, leaving Oskar mainly to fend for himself. When Oskar finds a mysterious key, he believes it opens something important left behind by his father. Oskar befriends his grandmother's renter (von Sydow), and the two travel across New York City to find the key's lock. Instead, Oskar works through his grief by interacting with random New Yorkers who share his loss, and by talking to the mute renter, who is a good listener. In the end, we don't really get to see what the key opens, but that's okay. We get a brilliant emotional scene between Horn and Jeffrey Wright instead.
I was surprised at how much I liked this one. There are people out there who think that making a film that involves 9/11 is just being a part of the propaganda machine. That it's a travesty. But this isn't a film about 9/11. It's a film about grief, and how hard it is to move past it, especially when there's things left unsaid. 9/11 is just the backdrop, because it provides a shared link of grief and pain across an entire city. Give this film a chance. It's got its hiccups, but it's mostly a solid drama.