Victoria Jelinek

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

A nine-year-old Francophile, amateur inventor, and pacifist searches Manhattan for the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father, who died in the twin tower bombings on September 11, 2001.

The plot is reminiscent of the film Hugo (an amazing movie by Martin Scorsese, also released this last year), with the great exception that this is about the emotional aftermath of 9/11 through the eyes of a child. Basing a film almost solely on the shoulders of a child actor is very tenuous – the audience will either sympathise with the boy or not. This child, Oskar Schell, is not easy to sympathise with despite his circumstances: he may or may not have Asperger’s; he’s obsessed with puzzle solving, becoming impatient and rude to those who don’t share his obsession; he rattles a tambourine whenever he gets anxious; and he’s often demanding and ‘brattish.’ The cast of actors are capable – Max Von Sydow and John Goodman are especially good, though sorely underused – but fine acting doesn’t save a poorly written script.

Nominated for a Best Picture award at the Oscars this year, this is arguably due to the subject matter, the previous triumphs from director Stephen Daldry, the power of the producer Scott Rudin, and the marketability of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. Because, while some cinemagoers may find this film a universal journey from grief and loss to acceptance and reconciliation, others, like this viewer, will find it manipulative, flat-footed, and just plain boring.

Shutter Island

1954: US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to an offshore asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from her cell, but he also wants to confront an imprisoned arsonist he believes was responsible for the death of his wife. Once there, Daniels comes to believe that psychologists Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow) are involved in unethical experiments. The story of criminal investigation turns in on itself as our hero suffers contradictory flashbacks and drug-induced hallucinations.

SHUTTER ISLAND is the nearest thing to a horror film Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) has made since Cape Fear. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, it has one of those tricky plots that keeps pulling the rug out from under the hero and with Scorsese’s masterful direction, it’s engaging Film Noir mystery combined with gothic melodrama.