World Trade Center
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Oliver Stone; scr Andrea Berloff with Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Hernandez, Michael Shannon, Stephen Dorff, Patti D'Arbanville, Donna Murphy, Frank Whaley, Brad William Henke, William Mapother release UK 11.Aug.06,
UK 29.Sep.06
06/US Paramount 2h09

Ground zero: Peña and Cage

bello gyllenhaal hernandez


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World Trade Center By taking such a rigorously straightforward approach to the events of 11 September 2001, Oliver Stone essentially creates an excellent documentary dramatisation. But it's so factual and earnest that it misses the chance to say something meaningful.

John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Peña) are just two of the Port Authority cops who respond when a plane crashes into the World Trade Center. As they enter the complex, they still don't that a second plane has hit another building. And when the first tower collapses, they're trapped in the rubble. Meanwhile, their wives (Bello and Gyllenhaal, respectively) and families try to find out what happened. And rescue workers search the rubble for signs of life.

Stone recreates these events with an astonishing attention to detail that takes us right into the eye of the storm. The early chaos is extremely frightening, as police and firemen bravely enter the storm of falling debris, then experience the thunderous roar of the buildings collapsing from inside. This is gripping, scary filmmaking that's realistic and grounded in characters who react immediately in honest (and not always positive) ways with fear, anger and frustration.

From this point, Cage and Peña are pinned into place, performing only with their faces (plus various unnecessary flashbacks and hallucinations). Both are solid, but it's Gyllenhaal and Bello who get meaty and involving roles--strong women faced with tough decisions and difficult emotional journeys. Of the rescuers, only Shannon's rogue Marine registers, with his burning desire to help.

This is so well rendered on screen that it's a shame how empty it feels. Stone and writer Berloff strain so hard to honour the memory of those who died that they avoid the subtext or commentary that would help us understand 9/11 from a new perspective and internalise the issues. Rather, we just watch a compelling story without experiencing it. Yes, this is an amazing story of courage and tenacity, but amid all the sentiment and emotion, the film feels strangely like a big Hollywood product. Contrast this with the much stronger United 93, which forces us to respond personally. A more impressionist exploration--or an actual documentary--would be much more powerful.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 5.Sep.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... World Trade Center Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Okay, if this is not number one, and it isn't, it is only because it is still too painful for a lot of people, I think. No one will forget where they were on 9/11/2001 - just like those old folks among us will never forget what we were doing the day JFK got shot. This movie focuses on 2 normal guys who were just doing their job, not really clear on what happened - just intending to save people. I felt what it would be like stuck down under all that rubble and how hopeless it must have seemed. And it showed what was happening above, and how sad it was. I intend to buy this movie, and watch it every 9/11 from now on. It is worth seeing and I know no one will ever forget. A powerful movie, but we need to remember." (16.Aug.06)

Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "A sensitive portrayal of the true story of two Port Authority police officers who were buried in, and then rescued from, the rubble of the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, having so strictly limited the story to the experiences of these two characters and their immediate families, the far-reaching enormity of the events of 9/11 seemed almost peripheral. Perhaps a different title would have worked better." (21.Aug.06)

© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall