Behind the Screen: Films star Oscar worthy actors

Reviewer Susan Steen gives her take on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Tinker, Taylor, Soldier Spy.

Gary Oldman has just been nominated for his first Oscar as best actor for his role as the iconic spy master George Smiley in Tinker

Gary Oldman has just been nominated for his first Oscar as best actor for his role as the iconic spy master George Smiley in Tinker

There have been more than a few movies themed around the tragic and world changing events of 9/11, but Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has a different perspective right from the get-go.

I did think that Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock were way too high profile to be able to carry off the roles of Tom and Linda Schell, but I was wrong. (Wow, that rarely happens!)  In fact it wouldn’t have mattered if Mickey Mouse had been playing the dad, Thomas Horn, playing the role of the son, Oskar Schell, is so riveting that you can forget that anyone else is in the show.

This is one genius kid. (I really mean that. Horn won $31,000 during kids week on Jeopardy and this led to an audition in 2010.) This is his first acting job, and Oscar worthy doesn’t even begin to describe what he does on the screen.

At home, he speaks three languages and is now learning Mandarin.

The film takes us on a journey that begins with the close relationship between father and son; a relationship torn apart by the events of 9/11.

As far reaching as that tragic event was, the movie introduces us to one boy and his dad, a jeweler, who had a Monday morning meeting at the top of the second tower on that fateful day.

Oskar, who likely has Asperger’s, although not diagnosed, loses his father and the one person with whom he has a bond. Their games of adventures and problem-solving brought the otherwise socially absent child into a place of fun and engagement.

His father’s death leaves Oskar distraught and lost, but at the same time, provides a quest to find the last mysterious item that his father left behind.

That quest takes over his life.  His relationship with his mother (Sandra Bullock) is almost non-existent at the outset of the film, and so Oskar turns to his grandmother’s (Zoe Caldwell) renter, played by Max von Sydow (who was just nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor), himself a social misfit, as he pursues his quest with all the energy and brilliance that he can muster, despite his obvious challenges.

Best line: “If the sun were to explode, you wouldn’t know it for eight minutes, the world would still be bright and it would seem warm.”  (It’s a bit chilling I know, but who knew, right?)

While adults feature in this film, this is really a show from a child’s point of view– and what a child! It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you think of more oxymorons (jumbo shrimp?) than you ever have before. It’s worth every single minute.

I give Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close five reels out of five.

I also saw Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the 1974 novel by John le Carre, and it looks like it was filmed in the ‘70s. There is nary a cell phone, computer, or fancy car in the whole movie.

It’s filmed in the gloom, rain and in gritty contrast to the crystal clear cinematography that we have today.

Le Carre was himself a member of the British Foreign Service. His work of fiction still stands today even though the Cold War is long over, the suspense and mystery of a possible “mole” at the top of British Intelligence gives us an interesting, if a bit confusing, show worth seeing.

As the tale unfolds, we try to place the characters in the storyline and keep them all straight, but you know I liked this one.

Best line: “It’ll take five hours to get drunk on this money pee.” (Well, I thought it was funny.)

I give Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy four reels for good acting and a chance to get another glimpse of what our lives were like before technology took us down the yellow brick road.

–– Susan Steen is a non-profit executive living in the Okanagan. Her column also appears weekly in the Kelowna Capital News.