Complete A-Z list

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (AF)


Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, Jeffrey Wright, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Zoe Caldwell

Director: Stephen Daldry

While Hanks and Bullock have top billing, the dramatic demands of this increasingly wearisome drama fall on the frail shoulders of newcomer Horn who, grieving the death of his father Hanks on 9/11, finds a key bearing the tag ‘Black’ and goes on an odyssey through the five New York Boroughs to find someone called ‘Black’ who possesses the lock the key fits. And, after what seems a lifetime of close encounters of the clichéd kind, Horn discovers what he is looking for.

Amazingly, even for an organization whose choices all too often appear to have been dictated by elements other than justification, the film has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. The sole reason I can find for this extraordinary action is that Horn’s character is called Oskar. A rather better-deserved accolade is the nomination for Best Supporting Actor awarded to von Sydow who, given the dull dialogue that infects the story, sensibly plays a mute who communicates by writing in a notebook and holding up his palms one of which bears the word ‘Yes’ and the other ‘No’ and who joins Horn in his search.

Hanks, who does his genial dad bit in his sleep (and almost in mine) before leaving on 9/11, coasts through his paper-thin role and Bullock’s most memorable contribution is to allow her young son to roam the city on his own, accompanied by a mute stranger.

Jonathan Safran’s “acclaimed bestseller” (or so the press notes tell us) was written for the screen by Eric Roth which should be warning enough since he was responsible for Hanks’ saccharine-sodden Forrest Gump and the well-deserved flop that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Daldry’s direction seems to slavishly follow the moist melodrama of the screenplay.

Result? Possibly a film to recommend to an enemy?

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
129 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Feb 2012