Blu-ray Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, centers on nine-year-old Oskar Schell who lost his beloved father in the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11. While some have suggested that using such a young boy to tell a story like this is emotionally manipulative, in a larger context, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a rather touching tale about dealing with tremendous loss through the eyes of a young boy. In his first film, Thomas Horn gives a measured and emotionally gripping performance as the devastated and confused Oskar.
On “the worst day” Oskar comes home early from school to an empty apartment and several messages on the answering machine from his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks). Each subsequent message is a more frantic than the one before. Thomas never comes home to Oskar and his wife Linda (Sandra Bullock); it’s clear that his death is a huge loss for both of them. A loving husband and father, Thomas was supremely patient, working to help Oskar overcome his phobias (he refuses to use swings, cross bridges, or take public transportation) and fears—the young man carries a tambourine to calm his nerves—and encourage his skills with maps and facts. Seeking an outlet for Oskar’s intelligence, and as a way to get him to talk to as many people as possible, Thomas would organize scavenger hunts around New York City. Shortly after his father’s funeral, Oskar finds a key and envelope with “Black” written on it in Thomas’ closet. Immediately, he’s convinced that the key means something…this is one final scavenger hunt set up by his dad.
Having decided “Black” is someone’s name, and desperate to maintain a connection to his father, Oskar travels around the city, meeting various strangers with the last name Black. His experiences are often surprisingly emotional, as when he meets Abby Black (Viola Davis) and has a conversation with her about how elephants cry, as her husband is moving out of the apartment. Totally focused on the task at hand, it doesn’t occur to Oskar that Abby or any of the other people he meets might be dealing with their own difficulties. Along the way, Oskar also befriends “the Renter” (Max von Sydow), a mute man rooming with his grandma (Zoe Caldwell) that speaks by writing in a notepad or flashing the words “yes” or “no” that are tattooed on his hands.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the story of one unconventional boy’s search to try and figure out why his dad was killed. While the use of 9/11 certainly wasn’t the only way the author could have told the story, it’s especially effective here, because New York City was in mourning, thus more willing to reach out to a boy who had social anxieties; they share Oskar’s pain, in their own unique ways.
Long well regarded, Stephen Daldry (The Reader) has delivered a well paced film featuring fine performances. He gets a great performance from Thomas Horn, who was discovered on Jeopardy! Kids Week in 2010. Hanks delivers again, as an everyman father, and while Bullock doesn’t have as much screen time as you might expect, she handles her character’s grief with skill. The Oscar nominated Max Von Sydow is tremendous in a role that requires the expression of various emotions without uttering a single word.
Warner has delivered a stunning, 2.40:1, 1080p transfer. Showcasing undeniably crisp detail, textures are top notch. Colors are bright and vibrant, balancing deep, inky blacks. There is no compression artifacting or edge enhancement to be found. There are a couple of instances of banding, but nothing that ruins this near perfect transfer.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master soundtrack serves the film very well. Dialogue is clear throughout, and surrounds kick in when the sounds of the city are heard. The film’s maudlin score is also given a rather lush treatment.
French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mixes are included, as are English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Aside from the DVD and UV Digital Copy, the following special features are available:
- Making Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (HD, 20 minutes): Director Stephen Daldry, screenwriter Eric Roth, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and other members of the cast and crew discuss the difficulties of adapting author Jonathan Safran Foer’s layered 2005 novel, as well as casting the filmHanks’ relationship with Thomas Horn, the film’s costuming and production design, and the use of national tragedy to tell a personal story.
- Finding Oskar (HD, 8 minutes): A discussion of how Thomas Horn, first discovered on Jeopardy! Kids Week in 2010, got the part of Oskar.
- Ten Years Later (HD, 11 minutes): Meet Daniel McGinley, a man who appears in the film only in passing, and only in a photograph. A broker who died in the South Tower on 9/11 and the relative of someone in the film’s art department. The film also honors Stephen Mulderry, the son of another crewmember, who also died on 9/11. Friends and family members share stories about each of the men and relate the experiences of others who lost loved ones on 9/11.
- Max von Sydow: Dialogues with The Renter (HD, 44 minutes): Compiled by the actor’s son, this excellent on set footage shows how a character is really shaped and developed.