Heads Up: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Daldry’s search for an Oscar continues with Oskar’s search

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A film adaptation by Stephen Daldry of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name, telling the story of Oskar, a 10-year-old, who, after discovering a key left by his father after his 9/11 death, goes on a quest across New York in search of the lock it opens.

Elevator Pitch

Oskar's search; or Daldry's search for an Oscar.

Prime movers

Triple Oscar-nominated British director Stephen Daldry – Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader – is at the helm. Screenwriter Eric Roth – Forrest Gump, Benjamin Button – penned the script.

The Stars

Tom Hanks plays the dad, Sandra Bullock the mum, and Thomas Horn makes his screen debut as Oskar.

The early buzz

It's already out in the US, and the performances have received positive notices: Hanks is charming, Bullock vivid, Horn impressive. But critics have been uneasy about its sentimental approach to 9/11. Peter Travers in Rolling Stone said that while it was “solidly crafted, impeccably acted and self-important ... Extremely Loud is also incredibly close to exploitation. That'll happen when 9/11 is your driving plot point.” Manohla Dargis in The New York Times suggests that Horn is weighed down with “an impossible role in an impossible movie that has no reason for being other than as another pop-culture palliative for a trauma it can't bear to face.” Whether British critics react quite so strongly remains to be seen.

Insider Knowledge

Horn was snapped up by casting agents after he won Jeopardy!, a US TV quiz show. He previously had no acting ambitions.

It's great that...

Safran Foer has said: “Why do people wonder what's 'OK' to make art about, as if creating art out of tragedy weren't an inherently good thing?”, while Daldry opined that it was “a cathartic experience to go into that [9/11], and to go into that with as much detail and depth as I could possibly muster”.

It's a shame that...

The trailer features lines such as “... maybe everybody's looking for something”; “Dad said, sometimes we have to face our fears”; and “... if things were easy to find, they wouldn't be worth finding”, suggesting those accusations of schmaltz may be deserved.

Hit Potential

Fans of the book will be intrigued, and it could capture the less cynical as quality filmmaking with added tear-jerking potential.

The Details

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is released on 17 February.