I was only seven when the September 11 attacks occurred, however I've never heard about the events until 2004 and for me admitting that, it would mean a huge disrespect to many people who were affected which was everybody. But having said that, it is one of the worst things to happen to humanity at any time in history and like the Holocaust, it's an event that's pretty difficult to cover in pop culture. Previously we had Oliver Stone's World Trade Centre, Paul Greengrass' United 93, which seems, for many people, to have come out too soon.
Now eleven years on with the attacks, we have Extremely _____ and Incredibly _______, based on a bestselling novel by John Sears. We meet Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a child prodigy who's also a prodigal. He bonds with his father (played by a wasted Tom Hanks) who sets him up with huge expeditions in and around Manhattan. These adventures they're having together keeps Oskar stable as he seems to be a prickly person with everyone. When Tom Hanks dies in the attacks (I didn't want to warn about spoilers because... duh... that's what happens), he becomes incredibly devastated and doesn't want to be around people including her grieving widow (Sandra Bullock). But he finds a key left by dad labelled 'Black' believing that it was the beginning of a new expedition he sets up for him. So he goes around New York to find the owner of the key and the lock that it fits in with a mute neighbour (Max von Sydow) coming with him.
Going into this movie, I had very low expectations because I see this as pure Oscar bait, the kind of films that deliberately wants an award that never really matter with merit. But wow. I was surprised that this was worse than what I thought. I have absolutely no idea how this movie manages to snub potential nominees (I don't want to go on the list of films because they were too many) to get two nominations including Best Picture and Supporting Actor. But Extremely _____ and Incredibly _____ were several things: heartless, overlong, overly self-important and desperately wanting for emotion. I have never read the book it was based on, which I heard was better than the film and I'm not going to after watching this film.
This film oddly resembled Hugo, another Best Picture nominee. In both movies, we see two boys who have certain affiliation with their father, who then dies but left them a key for a whole adventure. Where Hugo leads up to something fascinating about film, E_I_ never actually go anywhere interesting. In fact, this feels more like an endurance test than a movie.
As far as good goes, it starts off with Oskar's relationship with his father that becomes fascinating when they have their little adventures together. Where Oskar finds a rock that lived throughout every decade, I didn't mind. However that only lasted for 10 minutes and afterwards turns into a totally different movie. And that movie was Oskar going everywhere around New York for nothing that's special. There's little to the imagination in this route or to the possible zeitgeist this movie wanted to aim for.
Thomas Horn plays Oskar Schell like a poor man's Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. He's high in intellect yet he has habits that make him really odd to his people. The difference between those characters is that one of them is an asshole but applaudable for what he can do like changing the world, the other is just a pompous little brat. I was never ever going to root for this kid and his adventures because he's annoying. And I don't mean annoying in a casual manner where you get pissed off during the day. I mean annoying by being with him to the fact that he not only pisses off everybody, but he constantly has these habits that will be guaranteed for you to lose your patience with him. He screams, he talks like a smart ass that thinks he knows better, he constantly speaks so fast going into everyone's business that you're left exhausted. When he does some of that to the extreme, I finally lost hope for him. Although it does mention it, the movie doesn't think that he's different because he's autistic. We're exploited to a kid were supposed to like and believe he could succeed in his journey, but instead we just wanted him to die. And if I would have to give him a pass, why can’t they say this kid is mentally disabled?
But was Thomas Horn terrible? No. I think it was the screenplay that had him made to be that person. Eric Roth whose resume involves Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and in my opinion any movie he writes will indicates Oscar bait and will never work with the ambition of the film. It is directed by Stephen Daldry who made Billy Elliot and The Reader. Here, it’s poorly executed with terrible anachronisms and lazy idiosyncrasies.
The worst thing about E_I_ isn't that it has an unlikeable protagonist we cannot identify with or has the tendency to manipulate the audience (which it does) or wasted a calibre cast, but it's the sound, which lets the movie live up to its name. It's extremely loud (no pun intended); way louder than the average Transformers movie and it has incredibly close close-ups (no pun intended) of Thomas Horn's face.
As much as I find this movie depraving, it has so much potential to have at least one good thing about it. But we don't, because we are given all these contrived characters we are forced to be with and not giving us an in-depth look to all these people who have people they know dying in 9/11 giving us a bit of a story, or they could’ve focused more on Hanks and Horn’s bond and the numerous challenges they face based upon their flaws that I think would’ve made a better film.
To call it emotional porn would be an insult to movies that were once labelled emotional porn. If I was someone with some wits, I would be so angry that Hollywood had put something at little care for its production to make a whiny, passionless balderdash based on something that brought grief to people; rarely do I see that in cinema today. This movie had ruined my day and will ruins yours if you’re not the kind of people who could endure this kind of film. I saw a couple walking out because they cannot take it, which indicates how bad this movie turns out to its audience. It gave me a headache and it's rare when a movie with little scenes of shaky cameras does that.
It was out too soon. Way too soon.