Overall, however, World Trade Center is as square, and minimally satisfying, as a standard-grade World War II movie. In the most positive sense, Peña's baby-face reminds you of the precociously responsible boys and girls who saved the free world in the 1940s. In a more ironic sense, the brave wives remind you of phony-sententious home-front fare like Mrs. Miniver (1942) and Since You Went Away (1944), which were, of course, hugely popular in their day.
World Trade Center probably doesn't have enough action or humor to capture audiences as those two movies did. It does have sensational special effects, which are never meretriciously "thrilling," but Stone handles the action so poorly that at one point he gives the mistaken impression that one of the Port Authority officers has killed himself. Not to mention, in conventional romance-narrative terms it's a problem that the heroes are prostrated while Karnes, the effective hero, is only peripheral. If the events depicted hadn't actually happened and hadn't been part of an historic act of aggression, the narrative's peculiarities, as well as the movie's haphazard rhythms and bland emotionality, would be more apparent. Still, Stone's movie is bland enough to make people think it's a good thing, a healing experience. And since this seems to be the kind of thing many, probably most, American moviegoers appreciate, who knows, maybe it is.