The heroes at ground zero inspire the moving
Someday there are bound to be more interesting and even better films about the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. But maybe “World Trade Center,” and this year’s earlier “United 93” are the right films at the right time. Where “United 93” used cinema-verite style to depict events with little concern for visual style or peripheral storytelling, director Oliver Stone’s approach with “WTC” is anything but subtle. Yet the director, whose films include “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “JFK,” and “Natural Born Killers” demonstrates tremendous restraint and paints a picture that immerses and moves his audience without manipulating or over-dramatizing.
The true story of two Port Authority police officers, John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena, the locksmith in “Crash”), who were trapped under the rubble of the collapsed towers is remarkable on its own and needs little embellishment. The film majestically captures the quiet beauty of lower Manhattan just prior to the morning attacks, then thrusts the viewer into the maelstrom of frenzied noise, gore and terror once the planes crash into the towers.
The film keenly captures the confusion of a city coping with a disaster it could never have imagined, while news reports broadcast the horrific events to a world in disbelief. If it is true that it’s too soon for film like this, the d?j? vu reality of these scenes drives home the point.
The bulk of the film bounces back and forth between the scenes where the two immobilized officers try to stay alive, and the moments where their wives (Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal) and families deal with their own paralysis resulting from not knowing the fate of their men.
Heroes emerge from a variety of sources. Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), an ex-marine living in Connecticut rushes to ground zero following the promptings of God. A former paramedic (Frank Whaley) rediscovers his worth as a rescuer, and many others band together in what may well be deemed the most unifying moments in American history since World War II.
These acts of bravery and those individuals singled out in “World Trade Center” could be deemed “larger-than-life,” except for the fact that they are all based on true events. Stone allows only fleeting references to those responsible for the destruction. Though some may have wish for a more accusatory tone, (Like showing the scenes of Islamic children dancing in the streets after the attacks), “World Trade Center” stays true to its apolitical objective.
Tremendously detailed yet simply presented, “World Trade Center” is a love letter to those who sacrificed so much on one of civilization’s darkest days. It is a solemn, reverent reminder of what was lost, and also what was gained.
Rated PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.