Only two films have successfully touched the subject about 9/11 and gotten away with it scott-free. Those films are Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” and Paul Greengrass’ “United 93” (for which he was nominated for the best director Oscar).
The reason for their success is simple: They were directly about the event and nonfictional people involved. It then became about their stories and the struggle for survival. That being the exception, I have one rule: Don’t touch 9/11. This is a rule that “Extremely Loud and Incredibley Close” gloriously breaks.
The story about a child responding to his father’s death on the “worst day” starts off well enough. Scenes with the father (Tom Hanks) and his son Oscar (newcomer Thomas Horn) shine, as you feel the bond of their relationship are filled with laughter and respect. Then, as the movie hints, Oscar’s father fell victim to the 9/11 attacks as one of the building’s occupants.
From here on out, its multiple references to the accident inspired horrible images in the viewers’ minds, as young Oscar tried to find solace in his dad’s passing. This had the potential to be a truly great film with a heartfelt story at its core. This would be if it weren’t for the actual story and storytelling.
A year after the event, Oscar found a key with the word “Black” on it. Oscar felt it had something to do with his father and could even be a message. This started the movie down a path of a plot that seemed too ridiculous to imagine.
With Asperger’s syndrome, Oscar was very smart but socially inept. But still, this did not justify him wandering New York City alone at all hours of the night in search of all 426 people with the last name of Black.
What was worse was no one questioned it. He just simply knocked on the door and they welcomed with open arms. This was also made worse by a grieving mother who didn’t seem to mind.
As I said, the story played out so ludicrisouly it found no space for any real emotional ground. Or it did, but this was where 9/11 cames into play. Any scene involving the mention of the father’s death was always accompanied by a reference to 9/11. This was done through phone messages, the fact that men flew planes into the buildings and even images of people falling from the buildings.
Every time this happened, I felt insulted. The emotional weight of losing a loved one was powerful to witness on screen, but if I kept having to have it come with images of 9/11, it guaranteed tears. It was an arrogant movie from the director (Stephen Daldry) who thought that if a film had 9/11, it brought tears. It made it about the event, not the characters.
I could go on and on, but the bottom line was this: This movie had such a messy story that its only weight were scenes accompanied by 9/11. There seemed to be no point to it all. Is it the journey in hopes of making Oscar come out of his shell? No, he was already too comfortable walking around the city. Was it finding sense behind his father’s death? No, because the film even mades the point that there is no sense behind it.
Again, this was too jumbled a movie to find any real emotional grounding, and when it did, it’s was bogged down by 9/11 references, which was so personal, it mades everyone immediately engaged.
It insulted the viewer by not giving him an original story to find his own passion in and went for cheap tears.