It almost doesn’t matter whether “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is a good movie or a bad one. It’s a 9/11 movie, so how one reacts will inevitably hinge to some extent on individual feelings about the terrorist attacks that stunned and shocked Americans a decade ago.
As it happens, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is not a good movie, despite some strong performances. Instead, it’s something of an ungainly misfire - an unfortunate, occasionally enraging, mix of Hollywood treacle and twee Brooklyn literary gimmickry.
Like the 2005 novel by Jonathan Safran Foer it’s based on, the movie follows the adventures of jarringly precocious but emotionally disengaged 9-year old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), whose father,Thomas (Tom Hanks), died in the attack on the World Trade Center. A child with a fanciful imagination and a penchant for spitting out not-so-subtly relevant factoids, Oskar spends most of the movie searching the whole of New York for the lock that fits a mysterious key found in his father’s closet. His hope is that he’ll find something to help him connect with his father one more time - and, in the process, finally come to grips with the death of his dad.
The problem is that Oskar is less a fully developed character than an obvious and cringe-worthy stand-in for America - a-too-smart-for-his-own-good kid who knows a million little things but doesn’t have the maturity or emotional bandwidth to understand the one big thing that matters. His quest, with its lonely key and missing lock, is an equally blunt metaphor for America’s collective search for meaning in the aftermath of 9/11.