by Jim Emerson
Editor, RogerEbert.com / August 9, 2006
| cast & creditsMcLoughlin: Nicolas Cage
Donna: Maria Bello
Will Jimeno: Michael Pena
Allison: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Scott Strauss: Stephen Dorff
Dominick: Jay Hernandez
Lynn: Patti D'Arbanville
Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Oliver Stone. Written by Andrea Berloff. Based on the true-life events of John and Donna McLoughlin and Willliam and Allison Jimeno. Cinematography by Seamus McGarvey. Production design by Jan Roelfs. Editing by David Brenner and Julie Monroe. Music by Craig Armstrong. Running time: 125 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language).movie trailerClick to view trailer »?? | Trailers provided by Apple Movie Trailers|
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''This is not a political film. The mantra is 'This is not a political film.'" -- Oliver Stone, New York Times(July 2, 2006)
"It is one of the greatest pro-American, pro-family, pro-faith, pro-male, flag-waving, God Bless America films you will ever see." -- right-wing syndicated columnist Cal Thomas (July 20, 2006)
"World Trade Center" is about two men who, against all odds, survived the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. It combines fragments of two movies -- the one that Stone describes above, and the other that Cal Thomas flips over. It is a disaster movieand a feel-good inspirational movie -- both based on true stories -- and that is why I am of two minds about it. While trapped in the rubble, Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) talks about a little girl who survived after four days of being buried under debris after an earthquake in Turkey. Which raises the question: What if this were a movie about some other disaster, man-made or natural, real or fictional, instead of about 9/11? Would American moviegoers respond to it any differently than they did to, say, "Poseidon"? Or is the movie just exploiting still-tender emotions about 9/11 to sell another "Amazing Rescues" episode -- Based on a True Story, but essentially indistinguishable from countless other such stories from around the world and throughout history? That's something viewers will weigh for themselves as they watch this film.
Seen strictly as a movie (a PG-13 disaster movie or an exploitation movie or an inspirational movie or however you may see it), "WTC" is a tale divided against itself. The scenes between the two officers, Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Jimeno, pinned and immobilized, trying to keep each other alive in the pit of hell, are the best in the movie, because they feel the most authentically personal. You're right down there with them, and the actors play it for real. There's no need to overdramatize something as inherently dramatic as this.
Stone keeps his camera tight on these guys, conveying palpable sensations of weight, heat, dust and claustrophobia, and resists what must have been (for him) a powerful temptation to crank up the piano-and-strings. He overdoes the slow-motion in the early scenes, which fail to convey the overwhelming chaos most people who were there describe. And there are a few show-off CGI shots (like one that rises through the tangled debris and high up into the air above the vanished towers) that seem almost decadently gratuitous, but this is Oliver Stone, The Man With the Movie Mallet, so you get what you pay for.
Stone is uncharacteristically restrained and respectful in his treatment of these men and their families. Which is why the larger-than-life approach he takes to mythologizing the journey of USMC Staff Sgt. Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), the film's Hero with a capital "H," feels so jarring and inappropriate. The real-life Karnes made his way to Ground Zero on September 11 because he saw a job that needed to be done, and knew he had to do it. His actions are authentic and unquestionably heroic, and they should have...