Just about every movie critic will immediately want to draw comparisons between Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass’ heralded United 93, which was released earlier this year.
I do not unfortunately have that luxury, as I am still awaiting United 93 to be released on DVD. I did not catch that one in theaters for fear of it being possibly too soon to be seeing films about 9/11. Since then I have changed my mind slightly about the 9/11 issue and decided to screen Stone’s World Trade Center because, as I found, it is a film that needs to be seen.
The film tells the amazing survival story of Port Authority Police officers John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), who were trapped underneath the rubble of the fallen towers on that fateful autumn day. It also shows the horrific event from the eyes of the two officers’ families. As both McLoughlin’s wife Donna (Maria Bello) and Jimeno’s wife Allison (Maggie Gyllenhaal) await the fates of their beloved husbands, we lay witness to their most terrifying hours.
The film itself is meant to be a story of hope and survival; as the tag line says “The world saw evil that day. Two men saw something else.” It begins in a very somber manner, painting a beautiful picture of America’s greatest city. After this calm and serene view of New York is set forth, Stone unleashes what would become the most horrifying half of a movie ever put on film.
There is no political tone, there is no vision of the terrorists, there is just shadows of the planes hitting the buildings and then the gruesome reality of what really happened on that day sets in. The visuals are spectacular in their nightmarish accuracy.
As I watched the towers crumble from the inside out, a lump built up in my throat and the tears began to well up in my eyes; it was an emotional experience like no other.
After the intense moments of horror and chaos, the film slows down. The second half of the movie shows the two men buried beneath the rubble, fighting to stay alive as they await the aid that may or may not eventually come. We also watch as their families go through the rollercoaster of emotions felt by all whose loved ones were involved that day. The unfortunate part is that as the story moves on and comes to a close, the film has less and less of an emotional effect on the audience. To put it bluntly, the film goes flat in the second half as we barrel towards what we already know will be a somewhat benevolent ending.