Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is another Oscar baiter that blatantly and sometimes shamelessly taps at the tear ducts, but it also contains a few stellar performances.

As a 9/11 drama, ELAIC takes a slightly different and interesting tact to the tragedy. The story follows 9-year-old Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) — an amateur inventor/adventurer who could also possibly be borderline Asbergers. He sets out on a quest to find the lock that matches a mysterious key left behind by his father (Tom Hanks), who died in the World Trade Center a year before. Oskar figures if he puts together an elaborate plan to locate the lock somewhere in New York City then he can hold onto his dad a little while longer and make some sense of his horrible death.

See, Dad encouraged young Oskar to never stop searching for answers to mysteries, even though the boy gets anxious over the smallest things (like loud noises and riding on a subway) and has a tough time talking to people. Oskar’s mom (Sandra Bullock) tries her best to understand her son’s compulsive behavior but is also barely holding on herself, consumed by grief. Of course, the point really isn’t to find the lock, but rather to use the journey in searching for it so that the family can heal.

Young master Horn, who makes his feature film debut, is truly amazing as Oskar – almost too the point that you want to slap him for being so annoying. The kid’s nervous energy rarely lets up, and while we accept that this is who Oskar is, it’s still hard to watch on screen at times. Give the kid credit, though; he’s effective at what he’s doing. Hanks has a brief but memorable turn as Oskar’s dad, as the two share an incredible bond, while Bullock does a nice job playing the odd man out in her family, who still fiercely loves and protects her son.

On his quest for the lock, Oskar also meets a variety of people, including Viola Davis and Jeffrey Wright as a couple struggling in a troubled marriage, and Max Von Sydow as a man renting a room from Oskar’s grandmother who chooses not to speak. The veteran actor once again takes a small role and just plays the hell out of it. You’re never quite sure why he doesn’t talk, but the things Von Sydow does without words is far more powerful than if he did say the words. If enough Academy voters see this film in time to send in their ballots, Von Sydow could receive a nod for Best Supporting Actor.

Helmed by Stephen Daldry and adapted by Eric Roth, ELAIC has a strong pedigree behind the cameras as well. Daldry was nominated as Best Director for his last three films  – Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader — so there stands a good chance he might be four for four. Or maybe not. ELAIC doesn’t quite fit into the same category as Daldry’s previous work. For one thing, it’s a distinctly American story and somehow feels misplaced in the British auteur’s hands. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a beautifully made film, but the sentiments are slightly more over-the-top than they have to be, which is unlike Daldry’s other, more subtle efforts. It will probably still get a Best Picture nod because of the 9/11 connection – but like I said, since it’s being released in the 11th hour, we’ll see if the Academy will have time to nominate.