Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Stephen Daldry, 129 mins (12)


Lock this one up, and throw away the key

In 2002, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu contributed to a set of short films about the 9/11 attacks.

His offering was an art video that showed repeated newscast images of people jumping from the World Trade Center. At the time, more than one critic complained that it was in bad taste, if not obscene. Now, 10 years on, in a prestige Hollywood production, we not only see elegantly staged re-creations of those falls, but in one shot, Tom Hanks plummeting towards us at full speed.

Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, which ends with several pages of photos; flick them and you get a body floating upwards, towards the top floors of the twin towers. I haven't read the book, but I've glanced at its plethora of pictures, typographical tweaks and multi-coloured typefaces – as if Tristram Shandy had been put together by the design department of McSweeney's. Daldry's film is in that spirit, full of gorgeously shot (by Chris Menges) visual quirks and editing conceits, all to create something that will either melt your heart or make you recoil in horror – an innocent child's-eye view of 9/11.

Hero Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is an 11-year-old New Yorker with an original take on things – which is to say, he may have Asperger's, or another condition that manifests itself as a poetic, frenetically fertile and hyper-systematised world view, along with assorted eccentricities such as the need to carry a tambourine everywhere. And then one day, his loving dad Thomas (Tom Hanks) fails to come home.

Later, the stricken Oskar finds a key in an envelope with the word "Black" written on it – and decides that he needs to visit everyone in New York named Black, in the hope of finding the owner and thereby, obscurely, Closure. Oskar meets many people, most of them happy to share stories, wisdom and even hugs, or show him curiosities such as a photograph of an elephant crying. Thomas is accompanied on his quest by a mysterious old mute, who communicates through little handwritten notices. He's played likeably by Max von Sydow, smiling bemusedly. Von Sydow once played chess with Death in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Now he's holding up flash cards to a child, and he's got an Oscar nomination for it; funny old world, the movies.

There's little so awkward in cinema as the attempt to make a child-like film. Stephen Daldry, who isn't naturally a child-like director, seems to have absorbed the spirit of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine, etc), who is – and the result is bogus. With its manic montages, wry non sequiturs and "magical" moments, this feels like 9/11, Amélie-style.

You feel brutish complaining about child actors not being likeable, but I found Thomas Horn offputtingly knowing in his gauche eccentricity. And Hanks is as jovially tender a screen Everydad as you could ever wish to punch. But you won't really begin gagging until the finale, when Mom (Sandra Bullock) shows that there's no love like a mother's love, no matter how contrived a plot must be to prove it. This is a horrible folly of a film – not offensive particularly, just extravagantly inadequate to its subject.

Next Week:

Jonathan Romney watches Woody Harrelson's cop thriller Rampart

Film Choice

Of all the films in all the world...Casablanca celebrates its 70th anniversary with a re-release. And, roll over Brangelina! Kermit and Miss Piggy show who are the genuine Hollywood gods in The Muppets, the first Muppets theatrical release in 12 years and a witty, knowing reboot for the First Family of Felt.

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'