WORLD TRADE CENTER
Sgt John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and William J. Jimeno (Michael Pena) were two of the Port Authority policemen who went to help evacuate New York's World Trade Centre after terrorists crashed two passenger jets into the towers on September 11, 2001. What began as a normal day, soon turned into a terrifying ordeal when the huge towers collapsed above them, burying hundreds. In the chaotic aftermath, rescue teams struggled with fire, rubble and shock to try and find anyone still alive beneath the broken concrete and tangled cables. McLoughlin and Jimeno were two of the last survivors rescued from Ground Zero that day.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It is a fascinating moment in cinema history, five years after the shattering terrorist attacks on America via hijacked passenger jets taking off from New York. The first film to deal with the event is United 93 (released in Australia August 17), made by British director Paul Greengrass. The second is World Trade Center (released October 5) made by Oliver Stone. No two films could be more different in approach and style. Where United 93 is a brisk, taut, unsentimental re-enactment more or less in real time, of the events on one of the four planes, Stone's film is a sentiment-laden film in which the drama is presented more or less like a Hollywood disaster movie, focusing on two men trapped in the rubble of the collapsed towers.
In Stone's film, cinematic licence allows him to portray delirium sequences endured by Jimeno, in which he sees Jesus holding out a bottle of water. Both men have flashbacks to moments of love and family, which we also see. We see their families go through the trauma of their disappearance, and so on.
World Trade Center also differs in that stars inhabit the main characters - from Nicolas Cage to Maria Bello. This adds to the film's movie credentials, and while this is no disgrace, it does alter the way we react to the film. It's harrowing and moving, but it remains a film, a film that asks to be consumed as drama - with a message. The message is that Americans showed humanity, courage and defiance in the face of the attacks, and the contrast between the "bastards" (a word given to a Wisconsin policeman to utter in anger at the unfolding event) who perpetrated the attacks and the American folks can not be greater. It is by comparison that we can best assess movies that deal with similar material, and WTC suffers by this comparison: however, I happily urge everyone to see both. These are stories of history that have profound and irrevocable implications for our world.
Review by Louise Keller:
Tragedies are a natural source of stories about the human condition, and stories fuelled by, and about the horrors of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001, are inevitable. There is nothing simplistic about these events, yet there is a simplicity that filters through Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. Despite the plight and circumstances surrounding the rescue of two New York cops buried in the rubble, the film surprisingly leaves us with hope and compassion. There are no histrionics, simply strong storytelling, involving us in the lives of two men, their families, and by default, the many whose lives were touched by this unforgettable tragedy.
It is 3.29am, Tuesday, September 11, and Nicolas Cage's seasoned police officer Sgt John McLoughlin is waking up. New York is still sleeping, like his wife (Maria Bello) and four kids, as he heads to work. There are the daily briefings, and as we hear news of the impact of the plane crash in one of the towers that have been a fixture on the New York skyline, there is no time to ask questions or think about the events. There is simply a reflex action to rescue survivors. Confusion and chaos follows, and McLoughlin, Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) and members of the small team are pinned under metres of concrete and steel.
It's claustrophobic to the extreme, as we watch them struggling for breath, parched by the white ash that engulfs them. Stone concentrates on the relationship between McLoughlin and Jimeno, as they try to keep each other awake by talking about the little, but pivotal things in their lives. Jimeno agitates about the name of his unborn baby, while McLoughlin worries about not having delivered his wife's new kitchen. In tight close up and using their eyes to convey anguish, Cage and Pena deliver the gravitas of the circumstances, and we flit from the present to the past in flashback.
Production values are excellent, from the editing of real-life news footage to the interaction between the men, and to the scenes when we meet wives and families. Nothing is trivialised as tension builds and the story reaches its dramatic crescendo. It is an absorbing and riveting film, albeit emotionally draining. It is in this context that Stone succeeds in delivering an insightful and powerful snapshot of one of the stories of courage and determination from that fateful day in September.
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WORLD TRADE CENTER (M)
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Michael Pena, William J. Jimeno, Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Anthony Piccininni, Alexa Gerasimovich, Morgan Flynn, Armando Riesco, Jay Hernandez, Jon Bernthal,
PRODUCER: Moritz Borman, Debra Hill, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Oliver Stone
DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
SCRIPT: Andrea Berloff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey
EDITOR: David Brenner, Julie Monroe
MUSIC: Craig Armstrong
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jan Roelfs
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 5, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.