16 August 2006

Movie Review: "World Trade Center"

Movie Review: "World Trade Center"
© 2006 by Digital Dogs


September 11, 2001 is a date no one in the US will soon forget. It will remain in our memories forever, separating the Before from the After just as it separated those who were lost from those who survived. After the Twin Towers fell only 20 people were pulled from the wreckage alive, this film, World Trade Center, is the true story of the 18th and 19th people who were saved. It is a story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, after they went in to help people escape… and who were involved closely in the telling of their story (in fact, both the McLoughlin's & the Jimeno's share writing credit with the actual writer, Andrea Berloff).

The movie opens with the early start of a new workday for New York City Transit policeman John McLoughlin, played in a surprisingly quiet and subtle performance by Nicolas Cage. It's just another workday for New Yorkers, and Cage is one among many on their way to work in the early morning hours. Normal ends quickly as the first Tower is hit only 15 minutes into this 2 hour+ film. Without knowing what exactly is happening at the World Trade Center buildings, but watching as papers fly out of the buildings along with some people, McLoughlin leads a team of men into the belly of the beast to try to save people. How these men had the courage to enter these buildings as people were fleeing for their lives is still hard to understand. McLoughlin's team makes their way down to the lower levels between the Twin Towers to gather emergency equipment before they can offer help to anyone and it is their location and McLoughlin's fast thinking that ultimately saves him and one of his men as he begins to realize the entire complex is collapsing before they are even able to assist one person...he yells "Run - to the elevator shaft" just before the WTC buildings crash down on top of him and his team. The rest of the film is spent with the only two survivors of the team, McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), stuck in the rubble and unable to move as the buildings continue to collapse and rocks and fireballs shoot around them like a pinball machine. It is a lone Marine, Staff Sgt. Dave Karnes, who finally finds them buried alive beneath the rubble and saves their lives.

Once the buildings collapse, the film shifts focus onto the families of the two TA Cops as they and their families grapple with trying to understand what has happened to their city and their loved ones. Though not overly emotional nor manipulative, World Trade Center, nevertheless, leaves the audience with somewhat of a better understanding of what happened to those who never made it out of the Twin Towers that day. The EFX were powerful and pristine - footage in this film looks as if it were shot on-site on 9/11, and the actor's work is restrained. This reviewer sat in the audience and felt an oncoming migraine headache for the entire length of the film. Eyes hot and dry, head pounding, it was only after leaving the film that the reviewer realized why they felt so ill. This film brings you close to how it all felt to the people buried in the rubble. Regardless, this film clocked in at over 2 hours, and would have benefited by some judicial work in the FCP/Avid suite.

A prolific, brilliant, and difficult director, Oliver Stone, has produced some excellent work in his life, but not in his recent past. His last big Hollywood hit was 1995's Nixon, for which he received an Oscar nomination for a shared Best Writing credit. Prior to that Stone had a string of excellent, though decidedly intense films that received attention, among them, Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. After Nixon, Stone seems to have had a problem climbing back on the big-hit horse. He has had a string of films that have not served him as well, ending with the fiasco of Alexander, which actually received multiple nominations for the Razzie Awards. The Razzie, The Golden Raspberry Awards, honors the worst films of the year. With Stone's film history in mind it is easy to understand why he includes nothing of his own paranoid conspiracy theories about 9/11 in World Trade Center. For that this reviewer will remain eternally thankful for. World Trade Center felt as if it is Stone's attempt to get back in the good graces of Hollywood by trying for a win, rather than succumbing to paranoid fantasies, entertaining as they may be.

Though many voices are still questioning "Is it too soon for this film?" clearly, after almost 5 years - an eternity in our fast always-connected lives – it is not too soon. I imagine people will be asking this question for a long time. But if you're not ready to sit through the filmic agony of 9/11, then you have the option of not driving to the theater, paying your hard-earned bucks and sitting through a 126 minute film while people text message around you – simply stay home. But don't continue to ask pointless questions, it is never too soon – or too late, for that matter – to remember an historic occasion. It's far better to remember than to forget such a heinous act.


Digital Dogs rating: B+

Running Time: 125 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13, for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.

Producers Double Feature Films, Paramount Pictures, Donald Lee Jr, Norm Golightly, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Debra Hill, Moritz Borman, Director Oliver Stone, Writer Andrea Berloff, Actors Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff, Frank Whaley, Nick Turtorro, Pattu D'Arbanville.

© Digital Dogs