Movies You Have Not Seen But Should: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close


We will never forget. This week’s Movies You Have Not Seen But Should is a story of a young boy and a mysterious key left behind by his father who was lost in the World Trade Center attacks.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Tom Brokaw said on that day, “This day changes our world forever.” For the last thirteen years on this day, complete strangers have shared with each other the most intimate details about where they were on that day when the world changed forever. I didn’t lose anyone close to me in the attacks of September 11th, 2001, but there are so many who did.

It doesn’t seem like this day gets any easier, either, for any of us. Those images, the footage, the memories are constant reminders to us. Sure, it seems to me that with each passing year that it gets easier for some to talk about that day, but for me that moment is still frozen in time; that entire day frozen in time. Just like we all experience and cope with things differently, we all mourn the loss of loved ones, our security, and our comfort differently every year on this day.

I chose this film for this week’s MYHNSBS quite intentionally, because although this film was critically acclaimed as a powerful film, lots of people still haven’t seen it. I readily admit that I didn’t flock to the theater to see this film, even though Tom Hanks is probably one of my top two favorite actors of all time. I will also admit that I did, however, trek out to see another 9/11 movie, World Trade Center, starring Nic Cage, and for that I am ashamed on multiple levels.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is beautifully sad, jarring, and hopeful. It seeks to talk about the events of 9/11 on a level which thousands of people deal with personally still to this day: how do you live your life after losing someone so close?

What do you need to know about this film?

This 2012 Oscar-nominated film stars Tom Hanks (Thomas Schell), Sandra Bullock (Linda Schell), and introduced Thomas Horn (Oskar Schell). Max von Sydow (The Renter) was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the film. This film was nominated for Best Picture, but was included in a class with Moneyball, The Help, and the ultimate winner in The Artist. The film is based on Jonathan Safran Froer’s novel of the same name, and was directed by Stephen Daldry. This was not Daldry’s first go-round behind the camera, as you might recognize some similarities in this film and some of his previous works, such as Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Achievement in Directing.

This excerpt from a review from the folks at provides a great summary of the film, and its characters:

A fair warning before you step into this 9/11 drama based on the acclaimed novel by Johnathan Safran Foer- the protagonist, a nine-year- old boy living in New York City, isn’t someone you’ll embrace easily, even though the fact that he had lost his father in the Twin Towers should win much sympathy. Indeed, while we may accept a certain degree of immaturity from the kid due to his age, it’s appalling to hear him say that his dad- whose body like the thousands who perished was never found- might just be ‘dog faeces’ in Central Park, or that he wished it was his mother who had lost her life instead.

Oskar Schell (played by newcomer Thomas Horn) is rather the abrasive kid who is both precocious and socially awkward- though test results on Asperger’s syndrome turned out inconclusive. One year after that fateful day, Oskar steps inside his father’s closet and finds a key inside an envelope with the name ‘Black’ scrawled on the front. Thinking that it might be one of his father, Thomas’ (Tom Hanks), elaborate puzzles he used to concoct in order to force his son to interact with people, Oskar sets off on a personal quest to track down the source of the key.

Equipped with a backpack of essentials- including an Israeli gas mask, ‘A Brief History of Time’ by Stephen Hawkings, and a tambourine that he uses to calm himself amid the din and bustle of the city- Oskar traverses by foot through the five boroughs of New York knocking on the doors of everyone with the last name ‘Black’ he can locate in the phone book. Some of the people he meets include a married couple (Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright) on the verge of divorce, a religious woman who offers up Oskar’s mission to God, and a transsexual with a lifestyle too wild for Oskar’s comfort- it takes all sorts to make the world, and if each of these attempts turn out futile, it at least fulfils his father’s hope that Oskar will learn to be more sociable.

Each encounter is also an affirmation of the collective tragedy that was 9/11, as Oskar’s story moves those he meets to concern and compassion be they survivors or mourners. The unanimous display of empathy is poignant, reaffirming humanity’s ability to unite behind grief and loss. But screenwriter Eric Roth makes this journey as much about the mutual heroism of New Yorkers trying to make sense and come to terms with the senselessness and devastation as it is about an individual family’s struggle to recover from the very disaster.

Just as affecting therefore is the examination of the effect that Thomas’ death has on the dynamics of the family- the mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) coping with her husband’s passing while trying her best to win the understanding and love of her son; and the grandmother (Zoe Caldwell) thrust into an uneasy position as Oskar’s confidant even as he rebuffs his mother. Oskar also forms a connection with a certain mysterious Renter (Max von Sydow) living in his grandmother’s apartment, whose willingness to accompany Oskar on his trips belies a painful secret and a deeper personal motivation.


Why did I miss this film?

You might not have, but you might have steered clear because of the underlying theme. More to the point, the wide release of this film nationwide really encompassed just four box office weekends; it ran in select theaters across the country for six weeks before expanding to a wider audience. With lots of factors working against you checking this movie out at the theaters, and because of the subject matter, this very easily could have been one of those you intended to catch on-demand.

Why should I see this film?

Tom Hanks’ performance alone, albeit somewhat short and sometimes disconnected from the plot, warrants you watching this with your family tonight. Also, Sandra Bullock’s role as the mother struggling to cope with the loss of her husband and keeping it all together is actually quite good. On top of that, Max von Sydow ultimately steals the show as he accompanies young Oskar Schell on his quest to find just where the key leads them.

This story of heartache, loss, and joy is one that you absolutely cannot miss. Every film has its weird quirks and issues, and this film has them as well, but it’s worth watching as a reminder not that we will ever forget that day, but that it is worth remembering.

Need a little more convincing?

You can watch Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close on Amazon Instant Video.


About author

Josh Steen

Josh Steen is the founder of the JustUs Geeks, and is the host of the JustUs Geeks Podcast. Josh is also a dad, husband, and graphic designer. He geeks out over sports, video games, music, and Transformers. Have an idea for a story or podcast topic? Let him know via social media or email!


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