In defence of ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ (4 stars)

This post is in defence of Extremely Loud and Incredible Close (EL + IC).
There have been two key points of complaint about the film which was released in 2011.

One is the universal disdain for the lead performance, teenager Thomas Horn, who portrays Oskar Schell.

Many have made fun of his performance by mocking the film’s title- ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Annoying’ is one such joke.  Most have found his performance irritable.

Secondly, many have felt the film’s central emotion to be contrived, manufactured – and as some have put it –  solely for the purpose of the Oscar voters.

But despite that, the film did receive a Best Picture nomination – which surprised almost everyone apart from The Hollywood Reporter’s leading awards blogger Scott Feinberg, who predicted its nomination.

On Oscar’s night itself, the film received a less than flattering round of applause when its name appeared on the Best Picture montage.

But the film is not terrible. The performance is not irritating. The emotion is not forced.

When I voiced my initial review of EL + IC on twitter, I was met with many tweets expressing surprise, some thought I was joking.  A handful of those hadn’t even seen the film.
I became irritated at what I felt was a collective gathering of negative comments and derailment of the film by critics and websites.

So let me put in black and white what I think of EL + IC.
It is the best of the 9 films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
It will be considered as one of the best films of 2012, when my time comes to review the year.

Thomas Horn’s performance is totally genuine. He is clearly a kid who carries with him a difficult ability at social interactions (the film rules out Asperger syndrome),  which is heightened after a traumatic event at the film’s beginning.

His way of contact and the use of a tambourine as a security blanket are totally acceptable in the scheme of his motives – and are the furtherest from an irritant as you can get.

Infact all the performances in the film are outstanding – their motivations, and their emotions are sharply felt by the viewer.

Even those whose screentime amounts to just a few seconds are devastatingly emotional.  A montage of characters who Horn had touched, and even unintentionally harassed, each deliver a deep connection to the young kid’s journey.

My irritation can’t be direct just at other film folk.  It also lies with the film’s trailer.
It is a total mash-up of emotions, an awful 2 minutes 29 seconds of spoilers, and overlays a U2 song that tries to force rapidly upon the viewer, emotions that are better elicited slowly through out the film.

Let me be clear on how I think films should be viewed.
Do not watch a film’s trailer.  Cover your ears, leave the cinema if you must.
Come into a film blind.  Know as little as you can.  Let it lead you.

If you do that with EL + IC, you will be rewarded.

Rhett Bartlett
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – 4 stars.

You can follow me on twitter – @dialmformovies



  1. I did not enjoy EL +IC at all, largely because of the main character of Oskar. I don’t necessarily blame the young actor or the director (who also directed Billy Elliott, so he has a strong track record directing young actors), I just felt that somehow the film didn’t understand who he was and instead gave us a mishmash of quirky mannerisms.However, I disagree with your interpretation of Oskar’s “condition”. The film DID NOT rule out Asperger’s “Disease”, as Oskar incorrectly referred to the syndrome. It said that tests were inconclusive, which I took to mean precisely that it could not be ruled out. In almost every way Asperger’s was implied, or at least heavily borrowed from, and certainly informed my assessment of the character’s representation.I work with children, and have experience with several different children who live with Asperger’s Syndrome, and my biggest problem with the film was that the film just didn’t get Asperger’s right. It’s a cop out to say “but this isn’t Asperger’s, it’s something else our writers came up with” when the end result is still that the character just doesn’t ring true.I completely agree that it’s best to come into a film blind, which I did with EL + IC. I knew nothing of the book and hadn’t seen the trailer, so expectations weren’t the cause of my disappointment with the film. I think the potential was there in this story for a very good film, but unfortunately the filmmakers opted for soppy manipulation. We’ve seen so many memorable depictions of New York on film. It’s a shame this one didn’t do the city’s tragic subject matter justice.

  2. I got the DVD from the library yesterday and watched the film for the first time with no preconceptions whatsoever. I found it to be beautifully written and filmed with excellent performances all around. Oskar led me into his world and I felt that the script led me to learn more and more as it went along. It deeply affected me and I found it to be a profoundly moving experience. Going on to Rotten Tomatoes to gain further insight, I was blown away at all of the negativity and I have no idea where it came from. Is it possible that all of these reviewers saw a different movie? Astounding!

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