Never Forget. That is the mantra Americans have been hearing for the last decade. 9/11 was a tragic event in American history and thanks to feature films such as “World Trade Center,” “United 93” and several conspiracy documentaries, that day will live on long after you and I are gone. So, as with any film in this genre, we do need to ask if this film is necessary. Ten years after 9/11 we have to ask ourselves if the latest film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer) is helping us heal or is opening old wounds.
“The Worst Day.” That is how 9-year-old Oskar Schell (played by new comer Thomas Horn) describes 9/11 to his audience. He narrates the entire film starting with the relationship with his father, Thomas Schell (played by Tom Hanks) and only brief glimpses of his mother, Linda (played by Sandra Bullock). We see an exceptional father-son relationship where Thomas caters to his son’s needs but also challenges him to think on his own to build up his son’s super intelligence. Thomas has convinced Oskar that there used be a sixth borough in New York City and challenges him to find clues of its existence. While most dads play catch with their sons, Thomas is asking Oskar to hunt up clues around the enormous back drop of New York City.
All is good in the Schell home until “The Worst Day.” The planes hit the Twin Towers while Thomas is on the 105th floor. One year passes and Oskar is still trying to find ways to cope with his loss. He snoops around his father’s closet (Linda kept everything the same since 9/11) and he happens upon a key. Oskar sees this as a clue that his father has left behind for him. He starts a journey to find where the key is supposed to fit. He vows that he will search until he finds the keyhole. The only clue that he has to go on is the name “Black.” You must know this about Oskar, he might have Asperger’s Syndrome. He doesn’t say it directly but does say that he was tested for it.
Every Saturday Oskar journeys around New York City searching for people with the last name Black. There are hundreds of Blacks in NYC. Judging by Oskar’s calculations, it is going to take him 3 years to meet every Black in town. He is extremely focused to find the owner of the key and to find what his father left behind for him.
Oskar has amazing luck that he doesn’t run into any bad Blacks. Most of the Black families he meets are very helpful and give him sympathy for his situation. He is also lucky that his mother allows him to travel around town alone. Growing up in rural Iowa, my mother wouldn’t let me bike to the next town on my own, but in NYC anything goes.
To assist him in his journey, his grandmother from across the street has taken in a new renter (played by Max Von Sydow). The renter helps Oskar on his journey. However there is a problem, the renter is also a mute, making it more difficult for Oskar to communicate fluently with him.
We eventually find our way with Oskar to where the key fits. But we also find that what he is looking for is not as important as the journey that he just took. If it wasn’t for the tragedy of 9/11, he would not have had a chance to meet such an eclectic group of people.
Should you see this movie? Maybe. We should never forget the tragedy of 9/11, but do we needed to be reminded of how people were affected that day and one year after that day. We all had to go through our own grieving process and coped with loss in our on way. Do we need a 9-year-old kid with Asperger’s help us to heal? He was a tough kid to like at times too. His analytical and highly emotional thought process was a lot to take in for such a somber subject.
You will be in the theater with Oskar for more than two hours seeing how he develops plans to find the real meaning of his father’s key. While super stars Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks are hiding in bedrooms and on answering machines for most of their roles.