Written by Andrea Berloff
Directed by Oliver Stone
Running Time: 2:05
for intense and emotional content,
some disturbing images and language.
As much as I wanted to like World Trade Center, I just could not find myself getting into the story.
Based on the true stories of Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin, Will Jimeno and their wives, World Trade Center shows the events of that day through their eyes. Initially they were sent to do their normal routine, but as the day unfurled, they were called down to the twin towers to help out. They, along with the rest of their team, were in building 5 when they were caught in a collapse. They were the only two that ended up surviving. For 12 hours they were trapped over 20 feet under the rubble, having to deal with collapse after collapse around them. They had no water, and no way to move or communicate with the outside world. By random chance they're found and are saved. The movie tells their story from their point of view, along with the story of their families and how everyone had to struggle to keep the faith.
For better or for worse, World Trade Center is going to be compared to United 93. Both obviously touch on the same event, but the films come from two completely different points of view. World Trade Center is told strictly from the points of view of the people involved in the story. We never see the planes hit the towers, because they never saw the planes hit the towers. In fact, they never even knew for certain that the second tower had even been hit. It gives the movie a strange feel because we never hear about the events surrounding the planes crashing into the towers. At no point is it brought up who hit the towers, or how it could have happened. The movie is a disaster drama that unfortunately feels like it could have taken place anywhere, at any time. For the sake of this movie, it just happened to be on 9/11.
I guess the biggest difference between the two movies is that United 93 felt real. It was shot in a way that you felt like you were right in the middle of the events. There were few even slightly recognizable faces, so you were able to focus on the people. Even though everyone knows how it's all going to end, I still felt like maybe there was a chance they could survive and I got completely caught up in what was happening. That wasn't the same with World Trade Center. First off, it stars Nicolas Cage, who is one of the better known actors in the world. And the rest of the cast were all familiar as well. So instead of seeing Port Authority police officer John McLoughlin, I was watching Nicolas Cage play the role of a police officer. I never got fully involved in the film. I always felt like I was being kept an arm's length away. If you take this out of the 9/11 context and simply view this as a film, true story or otherwise, I would say it was underdeveloped. It never really told you who these people were and how special they are to this day. It just placed you in the middle of an event that everyone knows firsthand and is still fresh in the memories, and uses that as a way to get emotion. If someone who didn't know anything about 9/11 watched this film, they would have no idea of what was going on, or why this particular story has so much meaning to so many people. Director Oliver Stone, who is known for being able to take stories and make you feel something, relies too much on memories and not enough on on-screen substance.
It's strange. The events that took place on 9/11 only happened a few years ago, and to a lot of us, it feels even more recent. I'm not against having films made about 9/11 come out this soon, but it feels strange to watch it as a drama. One of my biggest problems is that I really wanted to like this movie and I feel bad that I didn't. The movie didn't move me or make me feel much for these people. I knew it was all based on their story, but when you have continual flashbacks and a bizarre Jesus hallucination, it makes it hard to really feel the characters. There's not much you can do when two guys are trapped under rubble for 12 hours, but going back and forth from them to their families, to random people in the country made the movie really slow. Yes I was sad for the families, but at times I felt like I was being forced to feel something. Like my emotions were being manipulated rather than being allowed to come freely from within.
Some of the scenes were strange and seemed edited to the point of nothingness. There's one shot of an officer from Wyoming which lasts a few seconds, then they show up at the end of the movie for a few seconds. That initial scene was only there to set up the final shot of them, but when it was placed in the middle of the movie, it was just awkward. Then there was the whole Dave Karnes story. Here's this guy who was an accountant in Connecticut, and he decides that God told him to go to the World Trade Center. So he puts on his old Marines uniform and just wanders through the wreckage. The way his story was played out seemed too unbelievable. There was no background on him, he just starts in Connecticut, ends up at Ground Zero, and randomly finds the two cops. If this wasn't a true story, it would all be too convenient. And still, it felt really out of place. I just feel like Stone could have done a better job setting up Karnes so that when he finds the survivors, it didn't feel like a movie cliché.
The Two-Disc Special Edition DVD has a lot of extras. There are a couple that I wondered about, like a conversation with Oliver Stone about living in New York (although he is a character) and a making of documentary. Somehow those kinds of things in this kind of movie seemed off. But there was a documentary about the survivors of the film, Will Jimeno and John McLaughlin that covers their time before and after 9/11 that was very interesting. Watching the real live people was much more affecting than the film, which makes the film pale even more in comparison. Even watching it in a smaller, more intimate setting like TV I never quite bought into the story. Obviously it's all true, but seeing Nicolas Cage made me feel like I was watching a movie and not a true story. Still, if you did enjoy the movie, the two-disc DVD is definitely the way to go.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was disappointed with World Trade Center. There wasn't enough connection with the people in the story to make me feel much of anything. My only emotions came from my own memories of the events and not from what I saw on screen. It was a well made film, but not a great one.
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