World Trade Center (Oliver Stone, 2006): USA

Reviewed by William Conlin. Viewed on DVD.

Like all of us, I remember where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was three weeks into my freshman year of high school when I was awoken to the terrifying footage on CNN. As the day progressed and more information came to light I remember watching the relief efforts trying to save people from the rubble. As we reach the tenth anniversary of 9/11 I decided to watch Oliver Stone’s telling of what live television couldn’t convey, inside the World Trade Center.

World Trade Center stars Nicholas Cage and Michael Penã as real life NYPD first-responders John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno. The film begins with everyone going about their daily business on the fateful Tuesday morning but quickly enters the all too well known devastation. McLaughlin and Jimeno are part of a team that speeds to the heavily damaged World Trade Center and begins the evacuation process. As they start to head upstairs they receive a frantic call to get out of the building. As One World Trade Center collapses, the team rushes for an elevator shaft, with only McLoughlin and Jimeno surviving. As people from around the world try to cope with what they are witnessing, McLoughlin, Jimeno and their families deal with the uncertainty of their loved one’s safety.

Told at an extremely personal level, World Trade Center along with Paul Greengrass’ United 93 were two of the first major studio motion pictures to deal with 9/11. Featuring a screenplay written in collaboration with McLoughlin, Jimeno and their families, World Trade Center accurately portrays the thoughts and feelings of those involved and surprisingly (considering it was directed by Oliver Stone) manages to keep politics out of the equation. The ensemble delivers stunning performances with true stand outs coming from Maggie Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon.

With a haunting piano score and tearful moments of contemplation, World Trade Center is a film that takes great strength to watch without being hit by waves of emotion. Tomorrow will mark a decade since 9/11, and undoubtedly many will take some time from their busy schedules to contemplate the events that happened on that day. If you feel so inclined, I recommend World Trade Center as a fitting film to watch. It is an uplifting example of the human spirit rising from the ashes.

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