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World Trade Center (DVD)
Member Name: karenuk
World Trade Center (DVD)
Advantages: Dramatic but realistic, well directed
Disadvantages: Might not be everyone's idea of a good topic for a film
But, World Trade Center is rather different to other films of its ilk. Disaster movies usually show what could happen in the future. World Trade Center illustrates a tragic event which did happen – and only five years before this movie was made. It’s a dangerous and controversial path to take, but director Oliver Stone rarely fears a challenge and decided to go ahead anyway.
However, there are some compromises – or directorial decisions. The crashing of the planes into the Twin Towers isn’t shown in a way that this genre would usually illustrate it. There are no over dramatic slow motion shots of the moment of impact, with heavy orchestral accompaniment tugging at consumer heart-strings. Well, why would there be? The news footage from that day is engrained in all our minds already.
Oliver Stone instead chooses a few brief visual reminders – a shadow of a plane over the heads of the New Yorkers being especially effective. The news reports being watched by the characters fill us in on the timeline and the events around the Pentagon, which happened that day too.
This time, we are given a different view of the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 and from the viewpoint of two police officers who were trapped under the collapsed heap of metal and rubble that used to be the landmark towers. The story is based on the account of survivors from that day and really, this is the best approach for something so recent, in my opinion. It is respectful and dramatic, but doesn’t tip over into mawkishness.
It is easy to dwell on various aspects of the tragedy – the implications to world security, the images of desperate people jumping off the towers, the reaction of the US government, the desire for ‘revenge’ from some quarters and so on – but you would need a movie lasting several days to cover all these topics adequately. Instead, Stone concentrates on the small instead of the big. While the afore-mentioned parts are all touched on, the main focus of the film is on two men and their families.
John McLoughlin (played by Nicolas Cage) has some twenty years in the police force, while his colleague Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) is younger and has had less experience. As part of the Emergency Responders team, they go into the World Trade Center after the first plane has hit, unaware that the towers may not survive the tremendous strain of the impact.
Fairly early on in the film, both men are trapped and immobile and you wonder how the rest of the film can sustain the interest of the audience, but it manages to. We meet their families and see how and where they live, sharing in their emotions as they worry about the fate of John and Will.
Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) has four children to look after, while Allison Jimeno (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake’s big sister) has a daughter and is pregnant. Through current events focusing on the women and their children and extended families, and through ‘visions’ experienced by John and Will, a picture is built up of their home lives, which are realistic and imperfect. As you would expect from true accounts, the couples argue sometimes and John is a bit of a workaholic, but they still love each other and this love helps the men cope with their predicament.
We follow the story in various ways – from the men themselves and their families, from the media viewpoint and from the point of view of the rescuers. The bravery and determination of so many individuals comes through in the film, which emphasizes the good side of such a tragedy. If they had stressed the death and evil from the attack, the movie would have been very downbeat and depressing. Oliver Stone’s direction gives it a positive – but respectfully so – slant on the events, illustrating how individuals gave so much of themselves to help others.
The special effects are kept to a reasonable minimum, as the human interest aspect is the one pushed to the fore. We learn about John and will, but also about human nature and our own thoughts and feelings. You can’t help but ask yourself “What would I do in that situation?” Let’s hope no-one else ever has to experience such horror again.
Make sure you watch the film to the end too, as there is some important information in the credits, explaining what happened to John and Will in real life. As a nice touch, the film is dedicated to the police officers who died on September 11th and their names are listed first, before any of the cast and crew.
While this is not the best film I have seen, nor indeed the best disaster movie, it is a good film and an important one. It would have been so easy to have made World Trade Center into a political forum or an over-sentimental weepy or to sensationalize and exploit the events of that day. But Stone has hit the right note with his direction, the characters are acted well and the tone is one of realism throughout. It is a fitting memorial.
World Trade Center was released in 2006. It is rated a 12 in the UK and lasts around two hours and ten minutes. The DVD is available for £5.97 from Amazon.
Summary: A respectful film of a difficult subject