World Trade Center - Worthy?

Duration: 125min
Category: drama
Available: On DVD
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World Trade Centre is the second theatrical film of 2006 to deal with the events of September 11, 2001. United 93 employed a very sterile, docudrama style to tell their story. World Trade Centre is the opposite. It’s all about emotion.

World Trade Centre approaches the tragedy from the point of view of the Port Authority cops who went into the building to rescue people only to become victims themselves. It also tells the story from the point of view of their families. As I said, this is a story of emotion. It doesn’t attempt to analyse the events or make sense of the chaos. Instead it simply tries to show us what it felt like to be there.

Is it successful? In my opinion, only somewhat. I don’t know if the filmmakers used over-emotive clichés like violin scores and slow motion for their schmaltzy power or in spite of it. Either way, World Trade Centre too often employs “TV movie of the week” conceits and this keeps it from resonating too powerfully.

Oliver Stone was once a maverick but it feels like he is softening in his old age. He doesn’t present us with anything surprising or new. Very little resonates. He scratches a few solid moments of pathos but most of the time it feels the whole experience is held safely at arms length. We are simply to admire the heroes and not really feel their human emotions.

Maybe this is a fatal flaw of making a film about a recent tragedy. Just like in United 93, the film makers can’t make real characters out of these people because they are real people and therefore their families and loved ones would be upset to see them as anything but admirable, upstanding guys. Therefore, they never feel real. None of us are that likeable.

There are a few moments where Stone comes through. For me, most of these came with Maggie Gyllenhaal who plays one of the trapped cops’ wives. She’s always good but here she does so much with very little. There is a scene in a pharmacy that is striking for its simple power.

But the film struggles at other points too. Maybe it was Stone attempting to throw too much in, but there are random scenes that seem to come from no where to give us a quick glimpse into strangers lives. Other times the film is so focused on its determined heroes that these vignettes seem out of place. Also, there is a very strange sequence where the film follows a psychotic looking ex-marine and his (hyper-accelerated) return to the corps that feels awkward and almost frightening. It almost feels like Stone had a few movies in mind and stitched together pieces from different strands onto the story of the cops.

World Trade Centre is a mixed bag but it never really gets into the emotion successfully. This movie needed to be about that and it doesn’t get there. Maybe more distance is still needed between the event and the film that will capture the pain and hope of that event.

Review By: Collin Smith

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