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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.49%
Worth A Look: 18.39%
Pretty Bad: 20.69%
Total Crap: 9.2%

10 reviews, 27 user ratings

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World Trade Center
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by Mel Valentin

"A TV-movie-of-the-week with a big budget."
3 stars

Overwrought, manipulative, and self-serving are all words that could (and should be) used to describe Oliver Stone's ("Alexander," "Nixon," "JFK," "Natural Born Killers," "Platoon") “based on true events” film about the efforts to save two Port Authority police officers from certain death on 9/11, "World Trade Center." Other critics will use vague, unhelpful words like "profound," “uplifting,” or "moving" to describe "World Trade Center." Stone doesn’t; far from it. It's partly the fault of the simple, simplistic, TV-movie-of-the-week material, but it's also partly (or is it mostly?) a result of Stone's proclivity for underlining and overemphasizing every story beat through music cues, slow motion, and, just in case we weren’t paying attention for the first two hours, voice-over narration about human nature (it’s as crude and simplistic as it sounds).

John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage), a sergeant with the New York City Port Authority, wakes up to another workday. Sunrise is still a while away, but McLoughlin has a long commute into the city. So do Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez), and Antonio Rodrigues (Armando Riesco), fellow officers with the Port Authority. But today isn’t an ordinary day. It’s September 11, 2001, less than an hour before the hijacked commercial airliners attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Within minutes of the terrorist attacks, McLoughlin and his men race to the scene to join the other police, firemen, and rescue crews.

McLoughlin takes Jimeno, Pezzulo, and Rodrigues with him into the World Trade Center on an attempt to rescue any survivors. The buildings collapse. Acting quickly, McLoughlin leads the men into the most protected area in the lobby, the elevator shaft. As the dust clears, McLoughlin and Jimeno find themselves buried under piles of rubble. McLoughlin and Jimeno struggle to keep awake and alert while they wait hopefully for rescue. Above ground, New Yorkers also struggle with the overwhelming news of the morning’s events. John’s wife, Donna (Maria Bello), and Will’s pregnant wife, Allison (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and their respective families wait anxiously for news, any news, good or bad, about John and Will.

World Trade Center has a few things going for it. First up, a convincing depiction of lower Manhattan before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that only generous production budget can buy. Stone and his screenwriter, Andrea Berloff, should be commended for not showing the jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center (we get plenty of CGI-aided and archival footage of the aftermath though). Anything more would have been blatantly exploitative. For a director who’s built a career around an in-your-face filmmaking style (e.g., fast cuts, whip pans, constant zooms, off kilter compositions, and mixed film stocks) often disconnected to story or substance, Stone defers to a more serene style in World Trade Center, holding shots longer and keeping his camera steadier than any time in the last ten years.

To prove his patriotic bona fides to conservative critics and red state moviegoers, Stone highlights the contributions of a gung-ho, religious, nationalistic, staff sergeant, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), who seeks spiritual counsel in a church hours after the terrorist attacks from his pastor, then saunters into Ground Zero just hours later on a search-and-rescue mission. Karnes ends up being one of the men who save McLoughlin and Jimeno, but did the Karnes character have to utter a line about getting payback? He didn’t, especially since Stone and his producers include title cards to remind moviegoers (as if anyone needs reminding) of the men and women who died on 9/11 and the first responders who perished trying to save them. Then there’s Stone’s head-scratching decision to have his actors speak with heavy New York accents. Some actors (e.g., Cage, Peña) fare better than others (e.g., Maria Bello), but all of them seem more concerned with getting their lines right than in giving credible performances.

On another level, what deeper message are moviegoers supposed to get out of "World Trade Center?" That, amid the destruction and rubble created by a terrorist act five years ago, men and women risked their lives to save each other? We know that story already, through the seemingly endless procession of television and newspaper reports that meticulously, exhaustively detailed the events that preceded or followed 9/11, including the heroic acts by New York's finest (note that no irony or derision is meant by this statement). That moviegoers can temporarily forget the last three years and mentally rewind to a more innocent, naive time when the global community supported us without equivocation? That American lives are more valuable than the Afghanis and Iraqis that died as a result of an administration using 9/11 as a catchall justification for military adventurism abroad and to silence domestic critics at home for the last five years?

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originally posted: 08/09/06 16:09:24
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User Comments

1/18/10 babette 911 was an inside job. 1 stars
9/09/07 mr.mike had no problem with it 4 stars
6/10/07 Danielle Ophelia Oliver Stone discovers Norman Rockwell noir, and it ain't pretty. 2 stars
12/22/06 John Z Good show, even though you kinda know the ending. 4 stars
12/15/06 action movie fan decent 9/11 story-at least stone didn,t rewrite history here 3 stars
12/14/06 The Deadly Assassin not bad, but can't compare with United 93 4 stars
12/11/06 Wendy Straw Awesome!!! 5 stars
11/25/06 MP Bartley Utterly forgettable, trite, limp and sentimental. 2 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Admirable as a reenactment, but this feel-good take grows increasingly arbitrary in 2nd hr. 3 stars
10/11/06 paula a slap in the face to the deceased of 9/11 1 stars
9/26/06 Anthony Feor Why must Oliver Stone ruin history? 2 stars
9/04/06 Sir Spam-a-lot Arrrgh, stop profiting on tragedy :-P (I saw it for free, BTW so no profit for me) 2 stars
8/24/06 Mohobbit This film reminds us of the hero's of that day,the cops and firefighters. Good work Oliver 5 stars
8/22/06 Brian C Much better than I ever would have guessed 5 stars
8/18/06 KAREN MATLOCK unexpectedly good 4 stars
8/18/06 Tiffany good 4 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Love ya Ollie, but, well, "United 93" was awesome... 4 stars
8/17/06 kristin it was very poorly directed and put together. at times it was even funny and quite random. 2 stars
8/16/06 seenit See it - not the usual hollywood hype would have been better w/ unknowns 4 stars
8/16/06 Sue D Great - a MUST see for everyone! 5 stars
8/15/06 Mike V A bit too much of a "TV movie of the week" feel 3 stars
8/14/06 y wasting money 2 stars
8/14/06 ES Heart tugging 4 stars
8/12/06 Mark So-so 3 stars
8/11/06 yo momma cinematic masturbation for the republican set 3 stars
8/10/06 Elisa Giro Very good. 4 stars
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  09-Aug-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Dec-2006



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