Film Review - WORLD TRADE CENTER.jpg



WORLD TRADE CENTER – The view from below

FIVE YEARS on, it seems the movie industry has signalled that it’s time to commemorate the true stories of heroism that emerged from the September 11 terrorist attacks. World Trade Center (WTC) is the second major 9/11 production of the summer, following on from United 93.

Unlike United 93, which recounts the plight of the doomed passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, WTC follows the story of two Port Authority police officers, John McLaughlin (Cage) and William Jimeno (Pena), who become trapped under the fallen towers and only have each other’s support to keep themselves alive.

The film begins by showing New York waking up to an unusually warm, normal day, with everyone going about their morning routine. We are shown what the police and rescue services were actually planning to do that day before terror struck.

Director Oliver Stone chooses not to recreate the shots that have been broadcast countless times on news channels all over the world that show the planes crashing into the towers. All we see is an unnerving shadow of a plane flying over the Manhattan skyscrapers, followed by seat-rumbling explosions. We then see shocking scenes of the towers collapsing from the inside and the desperate efforts of people trying to escape.

At Ground Zero, McLaughlin and Jimeno turn from prospective heroes into helpless victims, who can only wait for help and think about their loved ones.

The second thread of the plot follows the wives of the two officers, played by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and their agonising wait to find out if their husbands are involved in the rescue effort. From here, the film switches between the comradeship of the trapped officers, the desperation of their wives and the determination of those leading the rescue effort, David Karnes (Shannon) and Jason Thomas (Mapother).

Critics of the film have questioned whether it’s possible to make a gripping movie about two severely wounded men trapped in the dark, totally immobilised and unable to speak in anything but broken sentences.

Given the circumstances, Stone succeeds in gripping the viewer and Cage and Pena do a convincing job, only communicating using their voices and eyes. Gyllenhaal is the more convincing of the two wives, as she tries to remain positive and carry out household tasks, while waiting for news.

Although it is emotional, there are times in the film where you feel the script pushes things a little too far. It is difficult to be cynical with such a sensitive topic, but the film does have you occasionally cringing. In United 93, the heroes are portrayed in a very realistic fashion, in WTC they are conveyed in Hollywood style and some lines leave you cursing scriptwriters for not cutting them out.

Oliver Stone is known for his politically challenging films, such as JFK and Nixon and so it was expected that he might make a jab at Bush and the Republicans, but, surprisingly, the film is void of politics, causing some to accuse Stone of ‘copping out’. In his own words “politics are irrelevant, the film’s about courage and survival”.

It seems that even for the most outspoken activists, it is still too soon to produce a film that would politically challenge the events of the catastrophic day. Maybe in another five years we’ll be watching an Independence Day style, apocalyptic visual production of the towers plunging into downtown Manhattan, but, for now, the cinematic focus seems to be on how to pull yourself out of a crisis rather than glamourising one.

RATING: * * *

*   missable

* *   reasonable

* * *   entertaining

* * * *   very good

* * * * * outstanding