Max von Sydow received his second Oscar nomination for portraying The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
First of all Thomas Horn seems to have confused aspergers with HAMbergers (Yes I know that pun was worthy of Fozzie Bear). Secondly just because is suppose to be annoying doesn't mean that makes the character a good character, or any less intolerable to spend the film with. Thirdly there are performances that can make likable characters even if they are suppose to be insufferable, Albert Brooks in Broadcast News for example (See I didn't mention his film this year), but Thomas Horn is just an awful far too self aware actor to accomplish something like that.
Now I should probably get off Horn as this review is about Max von Sydow who is the mystery renter who rents a room from Oskar's grandmother, but Horn comes into play with Sydow's performance, not since Tom Cruise annoyed Paul Newman in The Color of Money, has a Oscar nominated performance had to deal with such a cloying obnoxious one. Max von Sydow deserves all the credit he can get though for putting up with this lesser performer, and actually managing to come out on top despite his lackluster co-star.
As the mysterious renter Max von Sydow never speaks a single word, and simply refuses to speak. He rather chooses to communicate with a note pad and a yes and a no that is written upon his hands. Sydow performance than relies completely in the aged actor's face, which Sydow certainly makes the most of. Sydow effectively creates a mysterious portrait of the man, carefully letting us in on some knowledge of his past. Sydow is able to show a rather sad man who clearly has had a troubling past solely through physical reactions.
Sydow who comes into the film about an hour in actually acts as a breath of fresh air, and the film which was becoming intolerable in Horn's hands at least finally has something good in it. Sydow actually brings emotional weight to his role, therefore bringing a little bit of emotional weight to the journey at the center of the film. Sydow interactions throughout his journey actually are quite moving realizing the joy and sadness in his performance, something the film on a whole is unable to achieve almost anywhere besides with Sydow's performance.
The film mostly made me cringe mofd than anything else, but Sydow's few moments in the film actually made something for to enjoy. He created a warm presence very much needed for the film, and he has some very strong moments even though they are shared with Horn. I think particularly in one scene where Horn's character plays the messages left by his father to the renter. The scene is very poorly directed, and played by Horn since it seems like the kid is trying to torture the renter frankly, but Sydow stays above the problems of the scene giving honestly devastating reaction to what he hears.
I liked the entirety of what Sydow did in the film actually creating an emotionally convincing performance of this sad man. Although it is true he has to deal with a frankly terrible co-star Sydow overcomes those problems with his honestly moving performance. He makes the Renter likable as well as as one of the few character's whose point isn't bashed over your head. Sydow instead uses subtly to actually make the renter into the right sort of enigma who is also quite endearing in the end. Although considering Sydow's filmography this is not his greatest performance it is a good one even if the film is not.