Despite ultimately getting an Oscar nod for best picture, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close didn't get a lot of love at the box office or from many critics.
The film, based on the 2005 novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, is based on the precious conceit of a boy in New York who thinks he has gotten a message from his dead father, who was killed in the attacks of World Trade Center on 9/11. Possibly diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, Oskar (Thomas Horn) finds an envelope with the single word black written on it and a key inside. His father (Tom Hanks) had often played puzzles and scavenger-hunt games with him, and he thinks the key and the word are clues that will lead him to some last revelation from his dad. More than that, it becomes a way to deal with the pain and loss he feels.
The story is told through the eyes of Oskar, who we meet when he's stonily sitting in the back of a limousine while his mother (Sandra Bullock) weeps outside at a grave site. He's angry, not grieving.
They're burying an empty casket, he says with bitterness. Alienated from his mother, he blames her for surviving. Precocious, not always sympathetic, Oskar becomes obsessed with images of people falling from the Twin Towers. Phone messages his dad left before the buildings collapsed haunt him. The clues send him on an odyssey throughout the city looking for people named Black.
His travels are at times whimsical, sad, funny and mostly unbelievable, although some of it gets explained in the end. Directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours) with a script by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider), Extremely Loud is a bit pretentious, but no one should take the story too literally. It isn't simply about 9/11 or grief but more about the need to explain the inexplicable and how when people do find something to hold on to, it rarely is what they thought it would be.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close retails for $28.98 or $29.98 Blu-ray.