Blu-ray Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A remarkably moving and heartfelt film is presented in a release that boasts the immense power of high definition.

rating: 4

With the recent 10th Anniversary of the tragic attack on the Twin Towers, delve into the emotional and highly absorbing tale of one boy's efforts to cope with the loss of his father. Available now on Triple Play Blu-ray and DVD, our review of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows... Adapted from the acclaimed bestseller by Johnathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a story that unfolds inside the mind of Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), an inventive eleven-year-old New Yorker whose discovery of a key in the belongings of his father, who died in the World Trade Centre on 9/11, sets him off on an urgent search for the lock it opens. As Oskar's quest takes him across the city, he encounters an eclectic assortment of people €“ survivors in their own way €“ who help uncover links to his father, preserving a connection to the man who helped Oskar confront his fears about the noisy, nonsensical and often dangerous world around him... Stephen Daldry's emotional drama is certainly one of the most accomplished adaptations of a novel to come out of Hollywood recently. The deep narrative that forms the original novel has been translated extremely well to the big screen, with enough sentiment and heart to make even the burliest of grown men feel just a little bit touched! Daldry employs elements of various genres to engulf audiences in the world of protagonist Oskar. Moments of suspense and mystery blend with surges of melodrama, whilst elements of off beat humour permeate throughout and offer some much appreciated comedy in the heaviest of moments. The film is driven by Oskar's incessant hunt for a lock that a key he has discovered in his father's possessions opens, but ultimately audiences will find this to be a McGuffin that even Hitchcock would be proud of (in fact viewers won't even be concerned that whatever the key locked away is never revealed)! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is essentially about relationships and through his journey across New York, Oskar finds that interaction with others helps the pain of losing his father ease significantly. Grief is often described as a journey and the narrative here helps demonstrate this, exploring how new relationships can help keep old ones alive. According to the narrative here, human interaction, kindness to others and lending an ear to those in need of one, is our salvation. Daldry helps heighten this philosophical sense by giving the film a rather lyrical feel in his direction. Scenes flow exceptionally well, with moments of deliberate jarring (achieved predominantly through sound editing) to exhibit Oskar's fear of loud noises. Viewers will undoubtedly find it impossible not to come away with a sense of warmth and hope after viewing this film: a realisation that life can go on after even the most unsettling of tragedies. As Oskar Schell, Thomas Horn gives what must be the most outstanding and memorable debut performance on film since Mary Badham's Academy Award nominated turn in the perennially acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962. Horn was 'discovered' on an episode of US game show Jeopardy and was encouraged to audition for the role of Oskar. Having never acted before, Horn's casting was an enormous gamble. However, he gives what must be one of the most complex, heart-warming and multi-dimensional performances a young performer has ever achieved €“ all without any formal training! Oskar is a heavily layered character with enormous depth and breadth. Horn manages to tackle the emotional aspects required, proficiently exhibiting the earth-shattering sense of loss and feeling of pain after his beloved father is killed. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock give raw performances as Oskar's parents, Thomas and Linda, helping build a rich picture of a family that appears idyllic but ultimately remains painfully human. Hanks is warm and kind in his performance, evoking an image of the perfect father (something that undoubtedly is heightened through the fact that the narrative plays out through Oskar's mind/memory). Bullock has a harder time as the parent who Oskar is less close to, leading the way to some fraught and intensely dramatic argument scenes as both characters work through their grief at the loss of the glue that gelled their family unit so well. The actress projects some dramatic clout here and shows that she is just as adept in such roles as she is the light, comical fluff that she so often finds herself cast in. Max Von Sydow gives an expressive performance in a dialogue free role as The Renter. Evidently becoming mute after an earlier traumatic experience, The Renter takes time to listen to Oskar and partially fills the void left by his father. Encouraging Oskar to face his fears, The Renter takes over from where Thomas left off and helps the boy discover more about himself and the world around him. Von Sydow uses facial expression to convey more meaning than dialogue ever could and the bond that forms between The Renter and Oskar is both touching and an engaging layer of the narrative.

Quality

The image quality on this Blu-ray release is spectacular, with no noticeable visual flaws, unsightly graininess or other forms of distracting blemishing. Colours are rich, but not entirely vivid. Splashes of luminous hues permeate through the overall cold colour scheme to take viewers by surprise. The screen is predominantly resplendent with metallic greys and silvers, icy blues and distinct blacks and whites. Moments of warmth come through with scenes lit in golden tones or when naturally lit sequences feature bright primary reds or yellows. Definition is superb on this transfer, with even the smallest details in a scene clearly visible. This lends a fulfilling and enriched feel to the film and viewers will happily not miss a thing within the images. The audio is similarly proficient, with a large emphasis placed on sound within the narrative. The Blu-ray release, with it's high definition sound scope, perfectly captures Oskar's fear and discomfort with loud noises by projecting intense sound effects upon viewers. At various moments, for example, the sound of a passing subway train or the repeating of Thomas's last voicemail message getting increasingly louder overpowers both the images and the ambient sounds to transport viewers into Oskar's unique and quirky mind. Elsewhere, dialogue consistently remains clean, clear and audible to ensure that viewers do not miss any of the heartfelt dialogue.

Extras

This release comes with a rather paltry collection of rather vacant mini documentaries about the film, with none really going in depth enough to be truly satisfying. The following is housed on the Blu-ray disc:  Making Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Mini Documentary.  Finding Oskar Featurette.  Ten Years Later Featurette.  Max Von Sydow: Dialogues with the Renter Featurette.  Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film.  DVD version of the film (no special features on this disc). Film: 4 out of 5 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is one of those rare films that proves to be incredibly touching and rewarding to watch, despite being plagued with a number of flaws that should make it have far less of an impact. Powered by exceptional performances, the film is worth every accolade it has received. Visuals: 5 out of 5 The film is highly stylised in a striking and artistic way, which is perfectly reflected in the flawless images presented on this Blu-ray transfer. Colours are rich and lucid, whilst images are free from all impairments. Audio: 5 out of 5 With a narrative so dependent upon the emphasis of sound in relation to a character's psychology, the high definition audio track on this release does exactly what it needs to. Sound effects are bombastic and all encompassing at times, with a clean and clear dialogue track throughout the remainder. Extras: 2 out of 5 A rather disappointing collection of featurettes make up the entire supplementary feature package. None are in depth enough to truly satisfy, leaving those viewers who delve in to them undoubtedly wanting more. Whilst the mini documentaries are interesting enough (and won't take a large chunk of time to watch or digest) the release would be infinitely better had it only offered an in depth feature commentary. Presentation: 3.5 out of 5 The front cover imagery offers a new glimpse of the film that the original poster campaign did not reveal. The release is attractive enough, but doesn't grab potential viewers' attention as much as it could have. The menus lack imagination further and are incredibly simple. However, this at least makes them easy to navigate! Overall: 4 out of 5 A remarkably moving and heartfelt film is presented in a release that boasts the immense power of high definition. However, disappointment lies ahead for those who enjoy the plethora of additional features that Blu-ray can potentially offer. If you don't rush out to buy this release, make sure you put it on your rental list...which it is more than worthy of! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is now available on Triple Play Blu-ray and DVD.
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