According to Rotten Tomatoes:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has a story worth telling, but it deserves better than the treacly and pretentious treatment director Stephen Daldry gives it.
A quick reading of reviews by critics and certain reactions to the movie’s Oscar nomination for Best Picture tells the same story: September 11 is too sacred for a superbly crafted aftermath story to be much more than gratuitous Oscar fodder.
That’s if the critics are to be believed, anyway. I think they need to get over themselves and stop worshipping September 11 as if it can only feature in movies that meet their arbitrary standards, but maybe that’s just me.
The story of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is beautiful, original and as you’d expect, heartbreaking, but not because September 11 features so prominently. At its core, it’s a story about the unusually strong bond between a father and son, the reconstruction of a family when that bond is broken, and the redemption of an estranged grandfather. Superb acting by the young lead (Thomas Horn) and supporting cast (Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow) make this a confronting, powerful and ultimately triumphant movie that didn’t once allow my mind to wander.
Production quality is very high. A number of head-spinning sequences that let us inside the fears, anxieties, hopes and frustrations that drive Oskar’s intense persona are particularly impressive, from photography to editing to soundtrack.
You should expect to feel emotionally drained after watching Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (hardly surprising with such a title), but I still highly recommend it as an inspiring fusion of fact, fiction, storytelling and art. I didn’t find it gratuitous or contrived at all. Purposefully awkward, if anything.
The critics were wrong about this one.