World Trade Center
Rated PG-13; Directed by Oliver Stone; Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal
“World Trade Center” is the latest entry into the 9/11 genre. “United 93,” opened earlier this year, looked at the events of the day from the perspective of the air traffic controllers, the NORAD officers, and the people on flight 93. “World Trade Center” gives us the Port Authority policemen who went in to the towers to help evacuate people. The main focus is on two of the policemen who are trapped under the rubble after the towers fall and their desperate families waiting to hear news. A true story, the movie gives 9/11 the full Hollywood treatment.
Policemen John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) are expecting a normal work day on September 11, 2001, but events of that day change everything. The early scenes in the movie are effective, because we as an audience know what’s going to happen. When the first plane crashes into the first tower we know that’s just the beginning, as the other tower will also be struck. As the police go in to help evacuate people we also know the unthinkable: both towers will collapse upon them.
The film shows us how McLoughlin and Jimeno try to not to drift into death hidden under tons of rubble, while we also watch how their wives, Donna (Maria Bello) and Alison (Maggie Gyllenhaal), are handling the disaster. We also see how the news pushes people to action. Though an irritating interruption, the segments showing a businessman putting on his ex-Marines uniform and heading into the city to do something is a true story, but slows the film down.
Directed by Oliver Stone (“Natural Born Killers,” “JFK”), who often has used frustrating camera work to tell his story, keeps it simple in this movie. Watching the families suffer through uncertainty brings us to tears, but the real tears flow from the excellent effects bringing us the images we have seen from that day. How seeing a multitude of papers flying through the air can bring back that horrid day is amazing.
The problem is that much of it seems by the scriptwriters’ handbook. Now we watch the wife look sad, now let’s go to the men talking about those wives, etc. Unlike “United 93” this movie has a big-name cast. They’re all good, but it does create a distancing effect. It’s Nicolas Cage under the rubble and not a real cop. It may be that 9/11 is not far enough in our past. We need more time.
As more 9/11 movies come out we will get some great Hollywood looks at that day and we’ll get plenty of crap. “World Trade Center” is one of the good ones, but it isn’t the defining film of the events of that day.