Preview by: Jack Foley
AS the countdown begins to the moment that a big film production
company announces a project concerned with the events of September
11, or subsequent war on terror, it is perhaps an appropriate
time to take a look at how smaller films, which have dared to
approach the subject, have tackled such an emotive issue.
Spike Lee's hard-hitting drama, The 25th Hour, opens on
Friday (April 25), and draws parallels between the struggles of
its central characters and the state of New York, post 9/11 (see
review, or preview
for more details).
But a new film, which has just opened in America, tackles the
subject head-on, and has won considerable acclaim for its sensitive
handling of a difficult subject.
The Guys stars Sigourney Weaver as a journalist, who is called
upon by Anthony LaPaglia's fire captain to write the eulogies
of the crew he lost at the World Trade Center.
The film is based upon the play of the same name, by Anne Nelson,
that was first performed at New York City's Flea Theater, under
the direction of Jim Simpson. It marked one of the first artistic
responses to the engulfing tragedy.
LaPaglia, who most recently starred in the acclaimed Lantana,
said in an interview with film website, Crankycritic.com, that
the biggest challenge he faced, was 'the sense of obligation that
I felt to get it right for the families of the firefighters and
the firefighters themselves'.
"You really felt an acute sense of responsibility there,"
he added, before acknowledging that making a film dealing with
9/11 could easily have been perceived as exploiting the tragedy.
"What I loved about it was the fact that it was imagined,
not exploited; that it was trying to take a small experience that
happened between two people in New York - a very large experience,
in a way that I think every body could relate to and put it on
film; in a way that did not exploit the moment."
LaPaglia, who has been an actor I have long admired, also spoke
about his views on the state of America, post-9/11, stating that,
in his opinion, 'something strange has been happening' since the
"I think it was a truly stunning event that actually shocked
people into inertia, to the point where we have an entire country
which is basically letting the government dictate a policy that
will turn out, I think in history, to be a very unpopular one;
and in some ways damaging, if we have reached the point where
we are going it alone if necessary so you suddenly go from being
a coalition into an aggressive force."
He added: "I am not saying that Saddam Hussein is an innocent
party that doesn't deserve some scrutiny, but rather, our foreign
policy is really questionable right now and our decision-making
policy seems to be completely irrational."
He concluded by urging people to see the film, so that people
can realise how they felt in the first week after 9/11, 'in order
to bring some humanity back into it and still, maybe, wake people
up a little bit'.
What the US critics had to say...
Entertainment Weekly awarded the film a B- and described
it as 'a small, heartfelt film', which possesses an ardent desire
to 'mourn the dead and bond with the living'.
The Chicago Tribune awarded it three out of four and wrote
that 'the movie, while never surprising, never becomes tedious',
while the Boston Phoenix said that it 'may be small in
scale, but it's big in scope'.
Hollywood Reporter described it as 'eloquent, reflective
and beautifully acted', while the Los Angeles Times felt
that it 'makes the transition from stage to screen with considerable
grace apart from some awkwardly inserted but brief archival footage'.
Planet Sick-Boy, meanwhile, awared it eight out of 10
and wrote that it is 'incredibly thoughtful, [and] deeply meditative'.
Paul Clinton, of CNN, described it as 'a truly moving
experience, and a perfect example of how art - when done right
- can help heal, clarify, and comfort'.
Less impressed, however, was Film Journal International,
which wrote that it 'will deflate anyone's good will', while Village
Voice felt that 'it's harder to ignore the whiff of opportunism
wafting off the movie version'.
But the negatives were few and far between, with FilmCritic.com
noting that it is 'not so much a movie as it is a way to reflect
on the nature of the loss we all experienced to one degree or
The New York Post added that it was 'one from the heart',
while the Boston Globe wrote that, 'in its own remarkable
and unshowy way, this movie is truly about how Sept. 11 seemed
to equalize and unite New Yorkers across imaginary barriers of
class and lifestyle'.
The New York Times, however, described The Guys as 'an
exercise in art therapy rather than a work of art', while the
New York Observer felt that 'the sobriety of the play has
been preserved at the expense of the movie'.
The final two verdicts, however, go to both the aforementioned
Los Angeles Times and to Rolling Stone, who seem
to sum up the overall perception of it.
The LA Times, firstly, concluded that the film is 'a hugely
moving tribute not only to New York's brave firefighters, but
also to all the people who go about their daily lives contributing
to the collective good that we never seem to know about until,
with cruel irony, tragedy strikes', while Rolling Stone
wrote that 'too much virtue can burden a film, but The Guys, based
on the play Anne Nelson wrote in response to 9/11, earns its sentiment'.