WORLD TRADE CENTER
THUMBS DOWN FILM REVIEW RATING!
When most movie-goers think of Oliver Stone, they usually think of cutting edge (Born on the Fourth of July), or visceral film-making (Natural Born Killers), or even historically disturbing cinema (The Doors). But few — if any — would consider Stone schmaltzy or an opportunist. Watching WORLD TRADE CENTER, though, one can’t help but feel a touch of the latter and a significant amount of the former.
UNITED 93 was similar in that it took the recent horrific events of 9/11 and reintroduced Americans’ fears to that awful day. It utilized (for better or worse) those feelings we all have and made money off of it. This isn’t as terrible as it sounds, though. Cinema has been doing this for as long as celluloid has been running through projectors, but never has the filming been so close to the actual date of the events (or at least rarely).
One can’t help but think that Stone must’ve been desperate for film material or somehow felt closely connected to the events that day. Either way, the script (although based on actual events) was lackluster at best. There are just a few exceptions that we’ll cover in a moment.
This is the (true) story of the port authority police officers that responded to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, and is specific to the two men from the port authority who were trapped and later rescued from under the rubble. Nicholas Cage (The Weather Man) stars as John McLoughlin, a gruff Sergeant who was around during the first bombings on the trade centers several years earlier. His entrapped fellow officer is rookie Will Jimeno played by Michael Pena (Crash), a family man with a new baby on the way. Both men have to deal with their isolation and near certain demise as they lay pinned and stranded only a few feet from one another. The story jumps between the rubble strewn men, their wives and families, and a retired marine who feels the call of duty after the attacks and risks his life to find survivors in the buildings’ wreckage (the schmaltzy portions are firmly entrenched here as we’re spoonfed everyone’s tearful response to that terrible day).
It is this "marine" that most might have the biggest trouble with script-wise. He seemed almost inserted into the story to give some grist to an otherwise empty milieu. His need for "revenge" felt hollow amidst so much emotion. And although this may be "the way it was," it didn’t translate well to film.
Interestingly, Nicholas Cage gives an admirable performance even though he’s not jumping into and out of danger, or battling evil-doers with deadly weapons. He’s confined as is co-star Pena and their concern for one another is touching, as is their concern for what will happen to their families as they lay thinking/dreaming about them (these were some of the best parts of the screenplay but only a small portion of the whole).
The most powerful part of the film was its sound editing. When the buildings collapsed and then later continued to creak and groan, they took on an ominous characteristic that brooded poorly for our two main characters and gave movie-watchers a great sense of dread.
But when the sound becomes the most impressive part of a film, there’s more problems than applause.