His 9/11

Imagine a massive stone dropped into a still pond, the ripples ever widening in concentric circles, the impact so far-reaching that we will never know the full measure of the irrevocable loss felt by so many in the days following Sept. 11, 2001. The images, the anguish, the personal horror will be with us always, however diminished by the passage of time.

Of course, now, more than a decade later, it is not surprising that artists and writers, photographers and filmmakers should attempt to capture the meaning and the human dimension of that day.

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is one such effort. Acknowledging that the emotions that surround that day remain raw still, the narrative in this touching and heartfelt film comes at 9/11 indirectly, telling the story of one young boy, Oskar (Thomas Horn), 11, whose much-loved father, Thomas, a jeweler, was on the 150th floor of one of the towers. As the full realization of what has occurred reaches them, Oskar and his mother, Linda, are devastated, at first searching for surcease in denial only to be leveled by grief when Thomas fails to return.

But this is Oskar's story, viewed through his eyes, and it is Oskar whose heart is cleaved by an event that he cannot understand or begin to explain.

What complicates Oskar's response to his loss is that he suffers from Asperger's Syndrome (or so the film implies), a form of high-functioning autism. He is brilliant, his language precocious, and he is hugely vulnerable.

A year after what he refers to as "the worst day," Oskar enters his father's closet for the first time and finds a small vase holding a key in an envelope. Written on the flap is the name Black. Nothing else. Oskar is stunned, immediately assuming that this brass key is part of an elaborate game, "Reconnaissance Expedition," that he and his father played endlessly, involving treks and clues and complicated maps.

Gripped by a frantic and unwavering hope, he is certain that if he can find the right Black family or individual (there are 427 Blacks in the phone book), he will discover the lock that will reveal a message from his father.

And so Oscar begins a methodical and inspired hunt, cataloging, organizing, walking the mean streets of N.Y.C., going door to door, meeting person after person, the key on a lanyard around his neck, his soothing tambourine in his hand.

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is an astonishing journey. Sentimental? Indeed. Eliciting emotions that make the throat tighten and the eyes well with tears. As well, it is generous and embracing, with an astonishing ensemble of actors giving superb performances, led by Horn, Sandra Bullock and Max Von Sydow, portraying an old man known only as "The Renter."

We will never know fully the toll exacted by 9/11. But we are given, ever so briefly, a glimpse through the eyes of a young, grieving boy.


If you love movies and you appreciate the full spectrum of films, well, you'll enjoy the heck out of "Haywire." Think of it as pulp cinema, the fraternal twin to chaos cinema: fun, compelling, entertaining, while flirting with incoherence. Which is all to the good. Plot holes are de rigueur.

The narrative is constructed around Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), who is one tough cookie, a beauty, once a Marine, now a gun for hire. Think of the mercenaries working gigs in the Middle East.

Most of the film is delivered in a series of set pieces, beginning with an intense scene in an Upstate New York diner where Mallory is waiting for a meet. Henry Aaron (Channing Tatum), a fellow merc, shows up and one hellish fight ensues, ending with Mallory leaving with a hostage. She recounts to the hostage why she is on the run, and thus the film's backstory is told in a series of long flashbacks.

As it turns out, Mallory has been betrayed by her Control (Ewan McGregor). Exactly why is never made clear. But then, lots of stuff isn't clear and no one cares. Great B-movies are notoriously obscure: no sentimental backstory, no revelatory dialogue, no elaborate explanations. Just put the pedal to the metal and rock and roll as Mallory throttles a whole bunch of guys while taking no prisoners.

It's all a wonderful cliché that is seriously enjoyable.

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