Movie Review-World Trade Center

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Written by Jeremy Hatt

Shortly after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, a cynical friend asked me how long I thought it would take before a movie was made based on the tragic events of that day and I reluctantly guessed 10 years. So five years later, I was dismayed to see a trailer for World Trade Center, the true story of two policemen who were buried in the rubble of the collapsed towers. Even more unsettling was the news that Nicholas Cage was starring, and his recent history of action movies did not bode well for a film of such serious material. Fortunately, my initial concerns were unfounded but for some people, it just might be too early regardless.

Now I was not directly affected by the attacks nor did I lose any loved ones that day and I was nowhere near New York when the attacks happened. But having said that, I still felt fear and confusion and I also felt sadness for the many victims that day. For this reason, the film did have a considerable effect on me, bringing back many of those feelings. For others though, the event may be still too close to some viewers’ hearts and the memory still too vivid to endure World Trade Center.

After reflection, I began to wonder if the emotion I felt during the film would have been as great if it was the same film except centered on another disaster instead of September 11th. If two men were stuck in the rubble of a building after an earthquake, would I have felt the same anguish during the scenes involving the families desperately reacting to their missing loved ones? Was I crying for what I was seeing on screen, or was the movie far more emotional because of its subject material? I had trouble deciding whether World Trade Center exploited these emotions or merely reminded me of the pain I saw in so many people during interviews and on the news. I think this will depend on each viewer’s own perspective.

Another problem I had was the character of Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), who took it upon himself to go to Ground Zero to help search for survivors. He is portrayed as a caricature and his scenes often felt overtly pro-religious and pro-American, sometimes bordering on Republican aggrandizing. I do not know the real Dave Karnes but some of his lines seem out of place; far too scripted and perfect for someone reacting to the devastation before him. At the same time though, the story appropriately lacks clairvoyance surrounding the reasons for the attacks or who was involved. Afghanistan and Al Qaeda are never mentioned. In fact, there is only one line ever directed towards the terrorists by a man present at Ground Zero: “those bastards.”

Oliver Stone made the right choice in being conservative with computer graphics. Except for one exploitive shot of Ground Zero and another slow motion sequence inside the tower during the collapse, the film is respectful in skipping unnecessary footage of the buildings collapsing or people fleeing and panicking in the streets.

The acting in this movie deserves praise. Cage playing John McLoughlin is more reserved than any of his other performances I have seen; all of the Cage mannerisms are gone. Also, most of his scenes are shot claustrophobically, so close that we only see his face full of frustration and fear. Likewise, Michael Pena as Will Jimeno is well acted. However, the best performances are given by Mario Bello as John’s wife, Donna and Maggie Gyllenhaal playing Allison, the pregnant wife of Will. Their desperation at not being able to receive any news rings true. Their scenes are the most emotional.

Perhaps most importantly, World Trade Center captured the good beheld on September 11th and the months following the attacks; because I do believe that some good was witnessed. Unity of a nation, strength, love, hope, persistence, and pure, honest selflessness towards fellow people were all recognized. World Trade Center is a testament to these things.

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