World Trade Center

Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 08/16/06 14:47:53

"It almost atones for “Alexander.”"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Oliver Stone’s recounting of the events of September 11, 2001 is free of the usual paranoia and conspiracy theories that viewers have come to expect from the iconoclastic director. He manages to recall the aftermath of the incident with an uncharacteristic sensitivity and restraint.

Instead of providing conjectured or unorthodox explanations for why and how the airliners crashed into the World Trade Centers, Stone simply recounts how a pair of Port Authority police officers named John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña, “Crash”) survived the attack and the how their rescuers acted selflessly on their behalf.

In the film, McLoughlin and Jimeno risk their lives to enter the site of the attack in order to help with evacuations. Before they are able to get their bearings or even understand the extent of the attacks, the massive buildings collapse on top of them.

The two are crushed under mountains of debris, which could fall in and finish them off at any moment. None of their fellow officers knows if they are still living, and rescue may not come.

McLaoughlin and Jimeno both have terrified wives (Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal) who have no idea if their husbands will ever return, but people from across the United States team up to help find any survivors in the wreckage including a Marine Staff Sergeant named Karnes (Michael Shannon) with exceptional courage and initiative.

Neither Stone nor screenwriter Andrea Berloff stray far from McLoughlin and Jimeno’s ordeal. Their tale is harrowing and inspiring in itself. Embellishments would undermined any credibility the film hoped to achieve.

Having made a name for himself with his sense of overkill, it’s strange seeing Stone make a film where the horrors of 9-11 are implied instead of shouted. The collapse of the towers is depicted briefly. Stone and Berloff do, however, capture the sense of confusion that accompanied the attacks.

Because it has entered the marketplace after Paul Greengrass’ powerful “United 93,” comparisons are inevitable. The previous film benefited from its more modest budget and its lack of recognizable faces. Without A-list stars, the events in “United 93” unfolded in almost real time and briefly made viewers feel as if they weren’t watching a film but reliving the horrors.

Because Cage’s face is established and Peña is becoming more familiar, “World Trade Center” feels like a movie. As a movie, it’s certainly well-made (Stone’s pacing is thankfully not as leaden as it was in “Alexander” or “Any Given Sunday”), but seeing star performers robs “World Trade Center” of some of its authenticity, even when the actors are in good form. How much real danger can an A-lister face?

It’s also odd to see a film about 9-11 where the terrorists are not depicted at all. Considering the liberties Stone has taken with history in the past, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he had depicted the cops clobbering Mohammed Atta.

Instead, Stone and Berloff may have decided that we’ve already seen the cruel madness of terrorism, and that it is important to show how a community can grow and survive in the wake of something as unspeakable as the 9-11 attacks.

The images of the smoking towers are already planted in our heads, but the hope and courage that enabled McLoughlin and Jimeno’s recovery are not as well-known or easy to depict. So, Stone deserves a great deal of credit for leaving the conspiracy theories to others this time.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.