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I have to admit that I wasn't exactly looking forward to sitting down and watching Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close when it appeared on my doorstep. For obvious reasons and those that are far more personal I haven't had the desire or been able to bring myself to watch any film dealing with the events of 9/11, even though sitting on my shelf are movies such as United 93 and World Trade Center, among others. My wife, who has what I consider to be a strange fascination with these events, purchased these DVDs upon release and has on occasion tried to get me to watch them with her. I've always resisted, nearly doing so this time as well, and sitting here a few days since viewing it I'm still not sure what I truly think of it.

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a story that unfolds from inside the young mind of Oskar Schell, an inventive eleven year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in his deceased father's belongings sets him off on an urgent search across the city for the lock it will open. A year after his father died in the World Trade Center on what Oskar calls 'The Worst Day,' he is determined to keep his vital connection to the man who playfully cajoled him into confronting his wildest fears. Now, as Oskar crosses the five New York boroughs in quest of the missing lock--encountering an eclectic assortment of people who are each survivors in their own way--he begins to uncover unseen links to the father he misses, to the mother who seems so far away from him and to the whole noisy, dangerous, discombobulating world around him.

The first thing that struck me about the picture is just how good the acting ensemble assembled here is, and in hindsight it's much easier to understand why as an actor's film it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Headliners Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are quite good, but they aren't the real stars. No, the real star is first-timer Thomas Horn who for the most part  carries the picture on his shoulders. You may find his character either endearing or obnoxious, but his performance of the role is excellent, and when he shares the screen with Max von Sydow, playing a silent old man who has probably experienced some past traumatic experience of his own, the film is definitely at its absolute best.

I also felt invested in the story of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close after a short time, and it kept my interest throughout as I wondered where and to who exactly Oskar's journey would lead him. It's touching and you'll need a box of tissues close at hand, but this also led me to the only real problem I had with it. Invoking 9/11 or any other such event that effects the lives of so many in both tragic and profound ways can be a tricky thing. Often times doing so can come off has being an easy way to draw out certain emotions from an audience, and it certainly does here. Being based on a well known novel the film can't help but be burdened by the fact that Oskar's story of loss, understanding and acceptance is heartbreaking enough without the events of that September added to it, but Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tries so hard to put a lump in your throat that it becomes a detriment. Any film worth its salt should elicit some type of emotion out of its intended audience, and I even accept it when some attempt to manipulate my emotions in such a heavy handed manner--Stephen Spielberg's War Horse is a decent, recent example--but when things are laid on as thick as they are here it's difficult not to take notice and be pulled out of the story a bit.  

My wife read the novel a year or so after it was published in 2005, and is re-reading it again now after having seen the motion picture. I asked her whether or not it was a good adaptation of the novel, and she thought that by and large it was, but also mentioned that the book was much more subtle and nuanced in its emotions. It was then that an interesting notion occurred to me--if the filmmakers had perhaps gone about a few things differently in adapting Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for the screen, they might have had something really special instead of something that's pretty good.

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Video
Warner Home Video's 1080p, AVC encoded 2.40:1 transfer of the film showcases the very warm, natural look of the picture quite well. It's never overly colorful or saturated, but black levels are always constant and there's fine detail throughout. I couldn't find any issues with artifacting, aliasing, banding or other such anomalies, and edge enhancement and egregious digital noise reduction is never a problem either. The source print used for the film is also free from any blemishes that might pop up, which is to be expected from a newly released theatrical feature. Overall this is an exceptional, if a bit understated, presentation of the film on Blu-ray.

Audio
The DTD-HD master Audio 5.1 audio track on this Blu-ray isn't going to wow anyone looking to push their home theater to its limits, but for this type of film is perfectly fine. Like the video the audio goes more for realism than your typical feature film so when directional effects are used as part of the sound mix it's mostly ambient sounds that you might hear traversing a bustling city. This approach allows the more overt uses of the surround channels and LFE output to be used to greater effect in key scenes in the film that call for greater dramatic impact. Dialogue is always clear and never drowned out by the other channels and the score is never intrusive, crucial for a heavily narrated picture. Overall this is an excellent audio presentation on Blu-ray.

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Extras
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on Blu-ray contains four high definition featurettes which run at a deceivingly long running time of around 75-minutes. The first feature entitled 'Find Oskar' (8 min.)  goes into how Thomas Horn got the role of Oskar in the movie and how he was trained to act with actors the caliber of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. The second feature, 'Making Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' (20 min.), covers the journey bringing the book to the screen along with the process of casting, directing and production. Overall this is a pretty decent feature that could have benefited from being a little longer.

The next extra, 'Ten Years Later', looks into the creation of the memory wall seen in the movie, which used photos of family and friends lost on 9/11 supplied by the production's crew. The majority of the featurette focuses on the touching consequences of including one photo in particular, that of Daniel McGinnley who was working on the 89th floor of the southern tower that day. This touching piece is the best extra found on the disc. The last featurette included is something of an odd duck. 'Max von Sydow: Dialogues with "The Renter"' (44 min.) is a series of on set footage and outtakes of Max von Sydow either talking to the camera or director. The inclusion of this piece is curious, and at three quarters of an hour its entirely too long. The two-disc set also contains the an UltraViolet copy of the film for streaming and portable devices along with a standard definition DVD copy of the feature film.

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Overall
While Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a good film, it also isn't going to be one that I view again anytime soon. The cast is uniformly excellent though, with newcomer Thomas Horn virtually carrying the picture on his back while holding his own with the likes of Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Viola Davis, not to mention the almost legendary Max von Sydow. Warner Home Video's Blu-ray presentation features excellent picture and sound along with a few nice extras that go into the production.

* Note: The above and below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Trailer


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