Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Extremely Excellent or Incredibly Insensitive?

9/11: few combinations of numbers hold as much power as these three. This is a date which lives in infamy and remains an enduring symbol of loss and confusion, even over 10 years later.

While there is some controversy over whether or not Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is focused on 9/11, the reality is that a great deal of the movie’s depth can be attributed to the attention that it devotes to “the worst day,” in the words of lead character Oskar (played by Thomas Horn).

The movie is one part analysis of the continued impact of 9/11, one part scavenger hunt adventure, and one part coming-of-age story. All of these aspects complement each other and are all addressed equally well.

Oskar is a unique narrator and protagonist because of his imperfection. Although his young age excuses him of many weaknesses, he ultimately is a troubled boy who makes many mistakes throughout the course of the story.

Despite his awkwardness and tendency to alienate others with the analytical lens through which he views the world (he even says that Asperger Syndrome tests were inconclusive), Oskar is a surprisingly relatable character. Anyone who has experienced loss (from 9/11 or otherwise) can obviously relate to Oskar’s dismay over his father’s death, but he is also relatable to any American because of his inability to wrap his brilliant mind around the insanity of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

In the midst of that tragedy, news organizations won awards for their coverage, yet none of them succeeded in answering the most important question: “why?”

Even now, the reasoning behind the attacks is unclear, and Oskar struggles with his inability to understand why 9/11 happened, just like the rest of us.

Because the movie captures this sense of confusion that defines the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, it addresses the tragedy with the utmost level of respect and never misuses the backdrop of 9/11 as a publicity stunt. Ten years later, this movie provides a mature, nuanced view back at the tragedy that has defined this generation.

The framework of Oskar’s quest for the answers to secrets his father left for him represents the need to grow beyond the sad outcomes that 9/11 left for so many. The tragedy of the movie is crippling, especially for a troubled young boy like Oskar, but he still does his best to stay active and not succumb to sadness.

Oskar’s adventure through New York is a great reminder to those victimized by 9/11 (or any other tragedy) that life endures and growth can always come from down times.

This is an incredibly sad movie, but the coming-of-age story embedded within the struggles of the main plot carries important messages about grief, guilt, and self-improvement that is exceedingly relevant, even ten years after the World Trade Center went down.


Brian Compere is a Community Reporter with the Village Connector Community News. He is also a Journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has created a blog focused on movies and other entertainment media at http://briansdeepermeanings.com/. To find out more about Brian, go to: http://about.me/briancompere