WORLD TRADE CENTER: Reliving 9/11
WORLD TRADE CENTER (docudrama)
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gylenhaal and Stephen Dorff
Director: Oliver Stone
Time: 125 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? After all that publicity, you should know by now that Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is about the dramatic, gut-wrenching rescue of two cops of the New York Port Authority at the time when America was shaken to its core. When we watched the Breaking News on that fateful Sept 11 2001, we kept telling ourselves that it was not a movie… that the events were real. Now, as we watch World Trade Center, we keep reminding ourselves that this is just a movie. That the event is over... Such is the impact we get from this docudrama that takes us back to 'Ground Zero' where some people experienced Hell on Earth.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Stone opens the story with shots of 'old Manhattan' – the area where the Twin Towers stood as proud landmarks of the city. Next, we follow John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) to work at the Port Authority police station on what seems like a normal, routine day. Then their world 'shakes' and when they learn -- with disbelief -- that Tower One of the World Trade Center has been hit by a plane, McLoughlin and his men head straight to the disaster area to evacuate the buildings. On the way, they get news that Tower Two has also been hit but they have doubts over the authenticity of the reports.
HIGHLIGHTS: Now, while we already know what has happened and what will happen, scenes of the collapse of the Towers still horrify us, especially when we 'accompany' McLoughlin and Jimeno as they are trapped in the rubble, under all those smoke and dust, talking to each other, offering hope and prayers, and urging each other not to fall asleep. We share their confusion, their pain and their determination to survive in a situation that seems as bleak as hell. Yes, it is claustrophobic and stifling but Stone does not just leave us there.
Stone alternates the claustrophobia with scenes of McLoughlin's and Jimeno's families, waiting anxiously for news of their survival. As the two trapped cops 'chat' about their loved ones, we see how McLoughlin's wife Donna (Maria Bello) and her four children cope with their fears. We also see Jimeno's pregnant wife Allison (Maggie Gylenhaal) fighting morning sickness and how her family rally to render support. Elsewhere, America is also coming to grips with the tragedy and a subplot, about David Karnes (Michael Shannon), an ex-Marine who flies from Connecticut to Ground Zero to help in the search and rescue, galvanises the fact that sometimes tragedy can turn ordinary people into heroes.
“Can you still see the light?” McLoughlin asks Jimeno when the cameras return to the rubble. By now, the two victims are semi-conscious and Jimeno's visions of Jesus Christ stir up doubts and superstition in the audience. Yes, we know they are going to make it but we still empathise with them during those long hours of doubt.
We must understand that the principal cast have added pressure to their roles since they must be both truthful and sympathetic to their real-life alter egos. On the whole, they seem to have accomplished that. Cage is effective as the 'Sarge' who confesses that people don't like him because “I don't smile a lot”. Pena plays a loving husband, father and cop that anyone should be proud of.
LOWLIGHTS: The scenes can be rather claustrophobic and depressing. So those who dislike tight spaces, take note.
THE LOWDOWN: World Trade Center and United 93 are two movies that take us back to the dramas of 9/11. Both are heart-rending and compelling.