Not that we needed reminding, but 9/11 was a really shitty day. In his new film World Trade Center, Oliver Stone revists the chaos, fear, hysteria, heartbreak, sadness, and destruction of that day, but in the process pays effective tribute to those who lived through it.
In the early moments of WTC, Stone shows how 9/11 started out like any other day. People are going to work, streets are filled with commuters, and all is business as usual. But then the shadow of a plane is seen moving across a building, elsewhere there’s a strong tremor, and suddenly nothing is the same. We all know what happened next, but Stone dramatizes it, recreating the events with a you-are-there quality, and showing us what it was like to look up in shock and see the towers on fire. We’ve not wanted to know how it must have felt to be in the World Trade Center when the towers fell, but there we are with John McLaughlin (Nicolas Cage) and his men experiencing it, and feeling scared just waiting for the inevitable doom that awaits.
Without going too much into a wordy review, I’ll say that the movie maintains the same perspective throughout. Though they get their due, this is not a movie that celebrates those who rescued McLaughlin and Jimez (Michael Pena). Instead, this is a more personal film about those trapped NYPD officers, and we feel like we’re trapped right there with them. Above ground, there’s some fantastic acting by Maria Bello as McLaughlin’s wife (Maggie Gyllenhaal is also good as Jimenez’s wife), and in general, though the film is at times hard to watch and runs over two hours long, it still moves at a good pace.
There were many stories of heroism, courage, and strength that came out of 9/11. WTC tells just one of them. McLaughlin and Jimenez are no more special than many others who lived through the day, but it’s that quality that makes this film so good. Stone illustrates how it’s not those larger-than-life heroes who deserve all the attention. Appropriately, this is a film for the little guy. It’s an excellent tribute. I give it an A.