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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (film)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Produced by Scott Rudin
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Based on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close 
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Starring Tom Hanks
Sandra Bullock
Thomas Horn
Max von Sydow
Viola Davis
John Goodman
Jeffrey Wright
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Chris Menges
Edited by Claire Simpson
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 2011 (2011-12-25)
Running time
129 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $55.2 million[1]

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a 2011 American drama film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Eric Roth. It stars Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Jeffrey Wright, and Zoe Caldwell.

Production took place in New York City. The film had a limited release in the United States on December 25, 2011, and a wide release on January 20, 2012. Despite mixed reviews, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for von Sydow.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Development 3.1
    • Casting 3.2
    • Characterization 3.3
    • Filming 3.4
  • Release 4
    • Home media release 4.1
  • Critical reception 5
    • Accolades 5.1
    • Best Picture nomination 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Nine-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is the son of German American Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks).[2] Thomas would often send Oskar on missions to do something involving one of his riddles. The last riddle he ever gives Oskar is proof that New York City once possessed a Sixth Borough. In a flashback, Thomas and Oskar play a scavenger hunt to find objects throughout New York City. The game requires communication with other people and is not easy for the socially awkward Oskar who is told "If things were easy to find, they wouldn't be worth finding".

On September 11, 2001, Oskar and his classmates are sent home from school early while his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock) is at work. When Oskar gets home, he finds five messages from his father on the answering machine saying he is in the World Trade Center. When Thomas calls for the sixth time, although Oskar is present to answer this call he is too scared to answer. The machine records a sixth message which stops when the building collapses. Oskar knows his father has been killed and falls to the floor. He replaces the answering machine with a new one and hides the old one so his mother will never find out.

A few weeks after what Oskar calls "the worst day" he confides in his German grandmother and they become closer. Oskar's relationship with his mother worsens since she cannot explain why the World Trade Center was attacked and why his father died. Oskar tells his mother he wishes it had been her in the building, not his father, and she responds, "So do I". After, Oskar says he did not mean it, but his mother doesn't believe him.

A year later, Oskar finds a vase in his father's closet with a key in an envelope with the word "Black" on it. He vows to find what the key fits. He finds 472 Blacks in the New York phone book and plans to meet each of them to see if they knew his father. He first meets Abby Black (Viola Davis), who has recently divorced her husband. She tells Oskar she did not know his father.

One day, Oskar realizes that a strange man (Max von Sydow) has moved in with his grandmother. This stranger does not talk because of a childhood trauma caused by his parents' death in World War II. He communicates with written notes and with his hands which have "yes" and "no" tattooed on them. As they become friends and go together on the hunt to find what the key fits, Oskar learns to face his fears, such as those of public transport and bridges. Eventually Oskar concludes that the stranger is his grandfather and plays the answering machine messages for this stranger. Before playing the last message, the stranger cannot bear listening any longer, this message being his son's last words, and stops Oskar. Later on, the stranger moves out and tells Oskar not to search anymore.

When Oskar looks at a newspaper clipping his father gave him, he finds a circled phone number with a reference to an estate sale. He dials the number and reaches Abby, who wants to take Oskar to her ex-husband, William, who may know about the key. William (Jeffrey Wright) tells Oskar he has been looking for the key. William had sold the vase to Oskar's father who never knew the key was in the vase. The key fits a safe deposit box where William's father left something for him. Disappointed and distraught because the key does not belong to him, Oskar confesses to William that he did not pick up the phone during his father's sixth and final phone call and then goes home.

Oskar's mother tells Oskar she knew he was contacting the Blacks. She then informs him that she visited each Black in advance and informed them that Oskar was going to visit and why. Oskar makes an artbook-like scrapbook filled with pop-ups and pull tabs like a children's book, of his scavenger hunt and all the people he met and titles it "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." At the end of the book there is a pull tab, showing an animation in which Thomas's body is falling up instead of down.

Oskar's grandfather returns to live with Oskar's grandmother.




In August 2010, it was reported that director Stephen Daldry and producer Scott Rudin had been working on a film adaptation of the novel for five years.[3] Eric Roth was hired to write the script.[4] Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a co-production with Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros., with Warner being the "lead studio".[3] Chris Menges served as director of photography, K. K. Barrett as production designer and Ann Roth as costume designer.[5]


Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock were the first to be cast in the film.[6] A nationwide search for child actors between the ages of 9 and 13 began in late October 2010 for the role of Oskar Schell.[7] Thomas Horn, who had won over $30,000 at age 12[8] on the 2010 Jeopardy! Kids Week, was chosen for the role in December 2010.[9] Horn had had no prior acting interest but was approached by the producers based on his quiz-show appearance.[8] On January 3, 2011 The Hollywood Reporter announced that John Goodman joined the cast.[10] That same month Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright were cast.[11] Nico Muhly was credited in the film poster as the composer, but on October 21, 2011 it was reported that Alexandre Desplat was chosen to compose the score.[12] Similarly, James Gandolfini was credited on the initial poster, and was originally in the film as a love interest for Bullock's character. However, test audiences reacted negatively to their scenes together, and he was cut.[13] Austrian actress Senta Berger was offered a role in the film, but refused.[14]


Daldry stated in an interview that the film is about "a special child who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, trying to find his own logic – trying to make sense of something that literally doesn’t make sense to him."[15] When asked how much research was necessary to realistically portray a character with such a condition, he answered "we did a lot of research," and that he "spent a lot of time with different experts of Asperger’s and talked to them."[15] In the film, Oskar reveals that he was tested for Asperger syndrome, but the results were inconclusive.[15][16] As Daldry explained: "Every child is different on the autistic spectrum, so we created our own version of a child that was in some way – not heavily, but somewhere on that spectrum in terms of the fears and the phobias."[15]

There are no references to autism in the novel.[16] Author Jonathan Safran Foer stated in an interview that he had never thought of Oskar as autistic, but added, "Which is not to say he isn't - it's really up for readers to decide. It's not to say that plenty of descriptions of him wouldn't be fitting, only that I didn't have them in mind at the time."[16]


Principal photography was expected to begin in January,[7] but started in March 2011[5] in New York City.[11] Filming went on hiatus in June.[17] On May 16, 2011, scenes were shot on the streets of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. Cranes were used to shoot scenes on the corner of Orchard Street and Grand Street.[18] Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was filmed with an Arri Alexa and was the first Hollywood feature film to use Arri's ArriRaw format to store the data for post-production.[19] Several scenes for the film were shot in Central Park, a location that is integral to the storyline, near The Lake and Wollman Rink.[20] The Seaport Jewelry Exchange on Fulton St. was used for a pivotal scene in the film when the son is searching through a jewelry store and its back room.


Daldry had hoped to have the film released around the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A test screening took place in New York on September 25, 2011 to a positive reaction.[21] Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close had a limited release in the United States on December 25, 2011, and a wide release on January 20, 2012.[22] It was released in the United Kingdom on February 17, 2012.[23]

Home media release

The film was released in Blu-ray,[24] DVD, and digital download formats in Region 1 on March 27, 2012.[25]

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews, though Horn's performance was praised. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 46 based on 41 reviews.[26]

Critics were sharply divided about the subject matter of the film. Betsy Sharkey of the [27] Andrea Peyser of the New York Post called it "Extremely, incredibly exploitive" and a "quest for emotional blackmail, cheap thrills and a naked ploy for an Oscar."[28] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film one out of four stars saying that "[the] film feels all wrong on every level, mistaking precociousness for perceptiveness and catastrophe for a cuddling session. It's calculated as Oscar bait, but the bait is poisoned by opportunism and feigned sensitivity".[29]


Award Category Nominee Result
84th Academy Awards Best Picture Scott Rudin Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Max von Sydow Nominated
Boston Film Critics Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Art Directors Guild Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film K.K. Barrett Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Stephen Daldry Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Thomas Horn Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Eric Roth Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Picture Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Max von Sydow Nominated
Georgia Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sandra Bullock Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Best Picture Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society[30] Best Original Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role - Male Thomas Horn Won
Breakthrough Performance on Camera Won
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actor Max von Sydow Nominated
Best Score Alexandre Desplat Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Teen Choice Award for Best Actress Drama Sandra Bullock Nominated

Best Picture nomination

Before the film's release, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was expected to be a major contender at the 84th Academy Awards (Stephen Daldry's previous two films had garnered Best Picture nominations). However, due to the film's polarizing reception and being ignored by most of the Critics Groups Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, it was no longer deemed as a major contender.[31] Nevertheless, the film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. Critics and audiences criticized the film's nomination for Best Picture, with some calling the film one of the worst Best Picture nominees ever.[32] It is the only widely reviewed film on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with a "rotten" rating to receive a Best Picture nomination.[33] Chris Krapek of The Huffington Post wrote very negatively about the film's nomination, calling the film "not only the worst reviewed Best Picture nominee of the last 10 years, [but] easily the worst film of 2011".[34] Paste Magazine's Adam Vitcavage called the film's consensus for a Best Picture nominee "certainly the worst for at least 28 years",[35] and David Gritten of The Telegraph calls the nomination "mysterious".[36]

Many critics have blamed the new Best Picture rules for the nomination. John Young at Entertainment Weekly says that when it comes to the new rules, "it's better to be loved by a small and passionate group instead of liked by a much larger group",[37] and Jen Chaney at The Washington Post, believes that, "the Academy should've just stuck to the 10 rule so that films like Dragon Tattoo or Harry Potter could've joined the other worthy contenders, because if you’re going to create a bunch of drama around the number of nominees and then come up one shy of what has become the typical total, that just feels like a letdown."[38] The Week writes that the new rules are a failure, as it lets "smaller, divisive movies that the Academy had hoped to weed out, like Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in, but prevents critically-praised crowd pleasers like Bridesmaids and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo from being nominated."[39]

Not all critics were negative about the nomination. Tom O'Neil, a former L.A. Times critic, analyzed the film's few nominations in other awards and its polarizing reaction from critics stating: "This is a movie that we unwisely wrote off, but we did it because we believed the critics. This movie delivers. It is a superb motion picture. It is moving, it is relevant to our time, it is extremely well made."[40]

At the 84th Academy Awards, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close lost in both of its categories (Best Picture to The Artist and Best Supporting Actor to Christopher Plummer for Beginners).

See also


  1. ^ Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close at Box Office Mojo
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  8. ^ a b Siegel, Robert, "Stephen Daldry Discusses New Movie", interview with Daltry, All Things Considered, NPR, December 20, 2011. Audio only. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
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External links

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