Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Thomas Horn, Max von Sydow
Ten year old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a child genius living in Manhattan. The narrative of the film centers on Oskar and the loss of his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks) who was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. While going through his father's personal effects, Oskar finds a key in a small envelope labeled "Black." To keep the memory of his father alive, Oskar sets out on a journey throughout the entire metropolis of New York. He compiles a list from the phone-book of everyone with the name of "Black"and searches the people out to see if his key fits a lock they may or may not have. Along the way, Oskar meets a mute neighbor of his who communicates to him only through written notes and a "yes" or "no" that is tattooed on his left and right hands. The mute (Max von Sydow) turns out to be his grandfather. While all this is going on, Oskar becomes increasingly estranged from his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock.) The plot of the mysterious key gets lost in the middle of the story, then reappears towards the end.
A more fitting title to this movie would be "Extremely Annoying and Incredibly Obnoxious" because that is exactly how I would describe the protagonist, Oskar. He becomes increasingly obnoxious as the storyline plays out. Oskar's rapid fire questions to everyone he encounters and dialect that is way beyond the normal dialect of a ten year old child was enough to put me off from the get go. Through no fault of Sandra-Bullock's acting ability, the character of Oskar's mother was all over the place. First, she is disconnected from her child, then she is involved, then disconnected (and gone for that matter), then she re-appears at the end as if she was there all along. Although Max von Sydow is a veteran actor, and a powerful one at that, his character was all but useless in this film. He gave a fine performance, but The plot would have been just the same regardless if the mute "grandpa" was in film or not. Tom Hanks has limited screen time, but his character is ever present through the entire film. One cannot help but love everything that he does in any movie that he is in.
I will say that there were a few moments in the film that did tug at one's heartstrings. However, it wasn't the plot or the storyline that triggered those emotions in me; It was remembering the events of 9/11. Who could ever forget that horrible day? I have mixed feelings on the film maker's use of 9/11 for that matter. The grief felt by Oskar had more to do with the loss of his father, and not actually the tragic way he was killed at ground zero. Thomas could have died any number of ways and the rest of the plot could have remained just the same. Did using 9/11 help the plot? I would say that it gave it the extra emotional element that made the audience feel that much sadder for the protagonist. On the other hand, one could argue that the writers exploited the most tragic event on American soil to further the effects of their fictional film. I guess the same could be said for Pearl Harbor...I'm talking about the Ben Affleck version of Pearl Harbor (2001)