Accessibility links

'Extremely Loud' Hits Incredibly Close to Heart

  • Penelope Poulou

Film follows boy suffering the loss of his father after 9/11 attacks

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," the Academy-award nominated drama by filmmaker Stephen Daldry, is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. The story, though rooted in the September 11 tragedy, does not focus on the event. It follows an 11-year-old boy who suffers from the loss of his father at the World Trade Center.

Oskar Schell cannot comprehend why the person he loved most died on the morning of September 11.

An intellectually-gifted child, Oskar also has symptoms of Asperger's syndrome and is fearful of the world. But he finds shelter in his father's presence. Together they solve historical puzzles or go on imaginary expeditions.

Thomas Schell, portrayed by Tom Hanks, spent endless hours helping Oskar ease into the outside world. When he dies, Oskar cannot let

"To prolong the contact that he had with his father, who is now no longer living, he goes to his closet that hasn't been touched in a year and finds, oddly enough, a key inside a vase that is sitting up on the top shelf," says Hanks. "And that key has the name Black attached to it. And he is convinced that Black is the name of somebody who had some connection with his father."

Oskar, played by newcomer Thomas Horn, visits hundreds of New Yorkers.

"He goes to all the people named Black in New York City," Horn says, "all the five boroughs, and tries to find out what the key means."

Oskar is accompanied by an old man who rents a room in his grandmother's apartment. The role is played by Max von Sydow, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

"It is a story about 9/11 and it's an important story about someone who chooses a therapy to come over all the shock without knowing that it is a therapy," he says.

Director Stephen Daldry makes 9/11 personal through the pain of Oskar and the Schell family. Actress Sandra Bullock, who portrays Oskar's mother, says the story is based on accounts of real people who lost loved ones in the attacks.

"We were able to have access to phone messages that those people that were left behind received from the people who were in the tower," Bullocks says. "The thing I was most amazed by was that, at that moment when I think the person realized they were not going to make it, they left messages of hope and love and affection."

Though an American story, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is a New York tale, about a community forever bound by a shared experience of historic proportions.

And it's about accepting that people are not always in control, that events don’t always make sense.

Stephen Daldry's film meanders, but the stellar cast, starting with young Thomas Horn, as well as the weighty nuances, make this a must-see film.

Hollywood seems to agree. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is contending for an Oscar, the entertainment industry's highest honor. It's nominated for Best Picture.