Simon Dillon reviews the film
An Oliver Stone film without politics may sound like an oxymoron (like an intelligent Michael Bay film or a David Lynch film that makes sense), but World Trade Center is exactly that; a stripped down, no-nonsense tale of survival mercifully bereft of Stone's worst excesses (my father calls him Oliver Grindstone). It's comparable to other Hollywood "based on a true story" disaster movies, such as Frank Marshall's hugely underrated Alive, and it is definitely the most interesting project Stone has tackled for some time.
Stone was renowned in his heyday for such angry and overtly political works as Platoon, Wall Street, Salvador, JFK and Born on the Fourth of July - in my opinion his masterpiece. But after that it all went pear-shaped with the likes of Heaven and Earth, Natural Born Killers, and most recently Alexander. I began to doubt I would ever see a good Oliver Stone film again, which makes World Trade Center all the more surprising.
The picture tells the gruelling but uplifting true story of Port Authority officers John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno, who were almost the last two people to be pulled from the World Trade Centre rubble following the 9/11 attacks. The film cuts between their desperate attempts to stay alive, the rescue efforts, and their families as they wait for news of their loved ones.
Throughout the film, there are a plethora of positive moral and spiritual lessons. Both men reassess their lives in light of the tragedy, vowing to live less selfishly and to mend broken family relationships. Both men pray to God for deliverance, and indeed are ultimately delivered. Also, among the rescuers is ex-Marine Sergeant Thomas (William Mapother) who believes God has told him to search for survivors and it is he who ultimately discovers McLoughlin and Jimeno. Although understated, this part of the story is a remarkable and powerful affirmation of obeying the call of God.
Stone's direction is unusually restrained, but still contains enough of his trademark slow-motion camera flourishes to make it clear who is calling the shots. Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena are both very good in their lead roles, and the finale is undeniably moving. But although much effort is made to keep things gritty and realistic, it never attains the same astoundingly tense and terrifying level reached by Paul Greengrass' vastly superior United 93. The documentary realism of that film all but removed the barrier between the audience and the film, whereas World Trade Center, although harrowing, still allows the audience the comfortable familiarity of Hollywood cinematic traditions.
In conclusion, if you see just one film about 9/11, see United 93. But if you see two, this is also worth a look.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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