World Trade Center - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director Oliver Stone; Audio Commentary By real-life survivor Will Jimeno And Real-Life Rescuers Scott Strauss, John Busching And Paddy McGee; Deleted & Extended Scenes.
THE harrowing events of 9/11 have forever been singed on our psychology as evidence of man’s ability to commit evil on a massive scale.
The collapse of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon and the downing of United Airlines Flight 93 remain dark, haunting images that few could ever have imagined were possible.
Five years on, news reports continue to replay the images of destruction while recalling the horrific death toll and judging, from hindsight, whether the attacks could have been prevented.
Amidst all the finger pointing and grim statistic gathering, however, it’s easy to forget about the actual human cost of what occurred.
Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, like Paul Greengrass’ excellent United 93, reminds us of that and focuses on the events that took place in New York.
What’s more, it finds some humanity in those dark hours by choosing to ignore the politics and conspiracies surrounding the attacks.
It is a work of remarkable restraint from Stone, who has seldom been shy with his comments on key moments in American history (the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, etc).
With World Trade Center, however, he treats the subject with the respect and sensitivity it deserves, employing a top notch cast to deliver a deeply personal true story about ordinary men and women caught up in an extraordinary situation.
Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena portray two of the last survivors to be pulled from the rubble of the Twin Towers – namely, Port Authority officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno respectively.
As they lie trapped and unable to move, the film counter-balances their attempts to prevent each other from falling into a potentially fatal sleep with the torment of their loved ones, all desperately hoping for the miracle that might bring their husbands and fathers home.
And it does so without feeling the need to pile on too much sentiment or resort to gung-ho American flag-waving.
For the most part, Stone admirably allows the events to unfold for themselves, thereby capturing the emotional impact on the lives of the people involved.
His depiction of the actual attacks themselves is similarly restrained, allowing them to unfold largely from a personal perspective as people look to the sky unable to comprehend what they are seeing.
When McLoughlin leads his men into the World Trade Center building just prior to its collapse, for instance, there are no unlikely heroics – merely scared young men forced to do their jobs in the middle of a terrifying situation.
Likewise once trapped, McLoughlin and Jimeno must attempt to deal with their claustrophobic situation as best they can, aware that their survival depends solely on each other’s resolve.
By focusing almost purely on their faces, Stone provides Cage and Pena with a terrific platform upon which to display their acting skills and both step up to the task impressively.
Cage has seldom been better since his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas and ensures that McLoughlin remains an everyday kind of man whose grim determination to survive is coupled with doubts surrounding his failing marriage and his decision to lead his men to almost certain death.
Yet he is capably matched by Pena’s rookie officer, Jimeno, who resolutely bids to keep his superior officer from giving up and drifting away while contemplating the birth of his second daughter.
Many of their scenes are extremely poignant and should provide a stern test of viewers’ tear ducts – as should the plight of their wives back home (superbly played by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal).
It’s only on the odd occasion that World Trade Center missteps and threatens to veer off course.
Michael Shannon’s depiction of Dave Karnes, an ex-Marine from Connecticut who helped find the two officers, hints at a military-inspired machismo that’s not required, while some of Stone’s religious imagery (including Jimeno’s visions of Jesus Christ) are ill-advised.
Yet in spite of this, World Trade Center succeeds as an admirably restrained celebration of humanity’s resilience in the darkest of hours. And it contains a parting message that should never be forgotten.
Running time: 2hrs 9mins