Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Movie Poster Image

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close



Drama about child's 9/11 loss stirs up sadness.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: December 25, 2011
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 120 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film's most basic message is this: Life might not make a lot of sense, but does it have to? We may never get the answers to our questions that we expect, but the answers do come, and they can be instructive, even wise.

Positive role models

For a film about deep tragedy and chaos, the movie has wonderful role models: Oskar's father is creative and whimsical and cares for him very much; his mother allows him to be himself, proudly; his grandmother is supportive and non-judgmental. Even an old man who becomes part of their family in a strange way proves to be empathetic. Oskar comes across as insensitive, but it's hinted that he has Asperger's syndrome, which sometimes makes it difficult for him to recognize and respond to emotions.


The movie's story centers on 9/11, and the graphic images from that day are shown: the twin towers with billowing smoke, people falling from the buildings, relatives receiving panic-stricken and heartfelt phone calls from trapped loved ones. Also, in a fit of anger, a child starts thrashing around and hitting anything in his way. He also yells at adults and sometimes comes across as insolent and disrespectful, when really he's hurting and is unable to process his emotions.

Not applicable

Infrequent use of "dipsh--t," "d--k," and "a--hole," sometimes by a child. Also "oh God" as an exclamation, plus words that sound like "s--t" and "f--k" but aren't.


Labels seen/mentioned include Dymo, Wild Turkey, Juicy Juice, Nokia, AT&T, Barney Greengrass, Fig Newtons, and Fairway.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some adult characters drink liquor in moments of stress.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer about an 11-year-old with Asperger's syndrome (or something very similar to it) who loses his father in the Sept. 11 attacks -- and how he copes with the loss a year later. Some scenes include graphic 9/11 imagery and news clips and may be too intense for young children. (If you watch with your teens, it's a good idea to have a conversation about 9/11 beforehand.) There's also some swearing (including "f--k") and drinking. Although the film centers around loss and tragedy, many adult characters are strong role models, and there's a message about learning to accept the answers that life gives you.

What's the story?

A year after losing his father on 9/11, 11-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) longs for an answer to make sense of a world rendered fearsome and confusing. His mother (Sandra Bullock) is tormented with grief. His grandmother (Zoe Caldwell), who indulges him and his late-night walkie-talkie check-ins, can't make it all better. But one day as Oskar snoops in his father's closet, left intact by his mother, he topples a blue vase in which a small envelope marked with the word "Black" hides. In it is a key, and Oskar -- who enjoyed many adventures concocted by his inventive father when he was alive -- is convinced it's literally the key to his questions about "the worst day" (aka 9/11). But first, Oskar must find which person named Black owns the key so that he can find out what it opens. Could the sad woman in Fort Greene (Viola Davis) be that person? Will the strange old man who won't speak and who just rented a room in his grandmother's apartment help him?

Is it any good?


Despite some overdone expositional voice-overs, director Stephen Daldry approaches the film's material with great care and feeling, if not restraint. Whether you like EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE may depend somewhat on how you feel about Jonathan Safran Foer's novel of the same name, on which the movie is based, and about 9/11 itself, which is the backdrop to this wrenching, moving, but at times frustrating film. Some viewers may be put off by the use of 9/11 imagery, convinced that it's manipulative. But others may feel that the sadness depicted here is all too palpable and real and that what Oskar and his mother go through is just one valid and affecting experience that many others had in the wake of "the worst day."

Ultimately, it feels more like the latter than the former. With deep empathy for Oskar's perspective and great care, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close unpacks the baggage that he and his mother carry after the loss of his father, a caring man who understood his son's limitations and wanted to help him push against them. (Tom Hanks plays him winningly). Some may flinch at Oskar's seeming coldness about 9/11, and a plot point concerning the relay of messages hinges on a decision he makes on that day that may prove unpopular. Still, it's important to note that, first, he's a child -- and children can and do make decisions that may not make sense to adults. And second, he appears to have some form of Asperger's or autism, in which case his response makes sense. (Horn, who makes his feature-film debut here, is clearly very talented.) In the end, Daldry has made a film that's extremely moving and incredibly close to feeling quite real.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's subject matter. Teens: What do you know about 9/11? How do you think the events of that day affected the children who lost their parents and/or other relatives?

  • How does the media usually portray/deal with 9/11-related stories? How does this movie compare to other depictions you've seen?

  • Why is Oskar so bent on finding the object that the key unlocks? What does it mean for him?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2011
DVD release date:March 27, 2012
Cast:Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks
Director:Stephen Daldry
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Topics:Book characters, Friendship, History
Run time:120 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language

This review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old January 31, 2012

Drama is Sometimes Treacly but Good Overall

I would give this a three and a half, but I have to round it to a four. I thought this film had a story definitely worth telling, and Thomas Horn (the young boy) had a very good performance in it. However, I think this film's main problem is the direction, which had flaws. I felt like there were moments in the film that weren't needed and were rather unnecessary, or made too dramatic. It's not deserving of a Best Picture nomination, but it's certainly something to see.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written bylittlemonster98 January 15, 2012


I cried...the whole movie...even before the kid lost his dad in the 9/11 inncedent...enough said.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Kid, 11 years old January 13, 2012

Great Movie For 11+

Well I have not seen it but a friend of mine and I are seeing it over the weekend. It looks like a tragic story and I recommend reading the ENTIRE review on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing


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