It is safe to say that there haven't been any daring films about 9/11 yet. "United 93" was the best of the lot while Oliver Stones "World Trade Center" was far to cautious. It is probably still to fresh in everyone's memory to produce a truly great film - whether true or fictionalized.


"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is on the right path - a fictionalized account of a fictional family affected by the attack. You can be more imaginative with pretend characters than you can with real ones, because real people aren't always interesting. That was the problem with "World Trade Center", the people were real but unfortunately not interesting - just regular Joes.


Using a script by Eric Roth ("Forrest Gump", "The Horse Whisperer", "Munich" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name, director Steven Daldry ("The Reader", "Billy Elliot" and "The Hours") cast Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Max von Sydow and Viola Davis to support Jeopardy winner Thomas Horn in his acting debut.

In every sense of the imagination "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is a bold move.


The story revolves around a boy named Oskar Schell who, using the clues meted out by his dad Thomas (Hanks), searches New York for answers to mysteries. He is quite bright and logical in his quests for answers.


His mother Linda (Bullock) goes along with the routines as a dutiful wife and mother. She expresses concern briefly about his safety when his quest lead him through Central park, but Thomas assures her that he is okay and needs to figure out how to talk to people since that is his greatest shortcoming.


In the middle of a quest to find the lost 6th borough the World Trade Center is hit by terrorists and his father - who was there for a meeting - is killed.

There is an empty coffin funeral, which confuses and angers Oskar, and an extended period of mourning. That mourning period last up til the time Oskar finally re-enters his father's closet for the first time since the death. During his poking around he finds a key hidden inside a blue vase that fell and broke.


Oskar is sure that his father left that key for Oskar to find the lock which it fits. The only clue is the name "Black" scribbled. Using all his skill he decides to identify and locate every person named Black in New York to see if they know what the key fits.


As you can imagine there are a lot of people named Black and he encounters a variety of personalities from a guy who hugs a lot to people who are free with their spirituality.


During the course of his quest however, he becomes more distant from his mother and she seemingly has a difficult time coping with his distance. In fact, he becomes relatively close to a mysterious guy who has begun renting his grandmother's extra room. Dispite her warnings to stay away from th old man, Oskar goes for and learn that the man - who calls himself "The renter" (Max von Sydow) doesn't talk and is therefore much easier to communicate with. He invites the Renter to come with him on the quest which, to no surprise, the Renter agrees.

It seems to empower Oskar as he sets rules for the quest and the renter mostly agrees - except when it comes to the long walks.


However Oskar is, during the course of his quest rude to just about everyone, obnoxious, and annoying. He is the kid that we used to beat up on as kids. And that is the main problem with the film. The main character is far from lovable; far from adorable' far from any kid you would really want to help. This may be how the story is written or it may be just poorly executed by Horn (he is a novice don't forget), but even the stellar cast can't help. Bullock is terrible in her weakened role. Goodman is perfect as the wiseacre doorman and von Sydow steals every scene he is in. Viola Davis and Jeffery Wright were filler and Hanks isn't in it long enough to have an impact.


The weak link is sadly the protagonist - Oskar. This may have been far to difficult a role for a first time child actor, although Horn certainly seemed to handle the large amount of lines. He just wasn't a kid you felt anything for in the end.


"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is on the right track for 9/11 films, it just isn't what it could have been. All the great talent can't prop up the fact that you just don't care enough about the protagonist - the kid!   -- GEOFF BURTON