I have finally watched this critic-panning 2011 BEST PICTURE nominee, its Stephen Daldry's fourth feature film after BILLY ELLIOT (2000, 9/10), THE HOURS (2002, 10/10) and THE READER (2008, 7/10), all four films have miraculously procured Academy's BEST PICTURE nominations, while the first three also gained Daldry three BEST DIRECTOR nominations as well, thus although ELIC broke the ground-breaking record for a distinguished feat among all film directors (e.g. the one gets nominations for his or her each and every single films), still it triggered quite an upset when this post 9/11 trauma remedy unexpectedly occupied a spot inside the top echelon one year earlier. At any rate, a director whose first 4 films are all BEST PICTURE nominees, which has already set a milestone in the film history, correct me if I'm wrong.
But looking back to the film itself, it is an unusually queasy one to watch, first of all, with such a wayward, smart alec kid undertakes a leading role, it ventures into an anti-crowd-pleasing passage to affront the huddled masses' benevolent expectation, and sorry to say that the cute-looking Thomas Horn's flagrantly histrionic performance does exacerbate the condescending request for sympathy and kindness which he endlessly solicits from everyone around on the grounds that "my father died in 9/11 so please indulge all my tantrums and swear words". The film manage to achieve a well-deserved" extremely irritating, incredibly maudlin" appraisal which is even worse than THE READER's unapologetic sensationalization of the war and human conscience.
The hurdles may already root in Jonathan Safran Foer's source material, it is a high-brow tall story detaches from the masses and tries too hard to conspire a tear-jerking fable as a placebo or solace to a country undergoing an awful tragedy, while if the majority of the Americans cannot buy it, what to be expected by the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, the hardware of the film is swell, the slo-mo, close-ups, image superimposition, offbeat sonic ambience and the exquisite usage of light all justify that there is a superior team behind Daltry.
Regarding the miscast contention, leave our young protagonist aside, the rest is fairly well-balanced, Tom Hanks is okay, Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright are surefooted, John Goodman is John Goodman, it's a tremendous pleasure to see Zoe Caldwell in a motion picture. Although the reverend Max von Sydow's Oscar nomination can be understandably regarded as a token of a lifetime achievement recognition, but truly his furrowed face excels all the words need to be said (just as the film shows). The only entry in my personal top 10 list from it is Sandra Bullock, steeps in her unfamiliar drama territory, she has certain glorified shots, particularly emits an uncanny maternity strength when confronting the most horrid verbal attack a mother can ever encounter from her own blood (although I was a bit out of the picture when my hunch told me Sandie would not wait to slap the little brat in the consequent act, of course, it never happened, I wish it could, who knows, it could be an off scene trivia).
Eventually all the puzzles are solved as we expected, the key finds its lock, the reconnaissance expedition ends with a soppy rite-of-passage epiphany, if one can feel better after watching the film, I may divine that there is a dark side of the id has yet to be awakened.