World Trade Center
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Michael Peña
Directed by Oliver Stone Rated PG-13
Before I begin my review on World Trade Center, let me just point out this sometimes-missed fact- this is called the totally BIASED review blog because it is…OH, and will always be…. my point of view. So, in saying that, I dismiss anyone who wants to use this movie as a political soapbox to start talking about the war in Iraq and say to you, respectfully, I’m sure there are a lot of blogs out there discussing that sort of thing. I’m here to tell you how this movie was… as a movie, not as a political statement.
Oliver Stone, in fact, avoids any kind of politics entirely, which was surprising and pleasing to me. He focuses not on the horror, not on the conspiracies (you know, that these were planned detonations rather than planes – whatever, might as well be “blah blah blah” to me, about as prickly to my spine as the magical “20 dollar bill that proves the WTC was going down.” UGH. Shudder. Barf.) The fact is that thousands of innocent people died that day, and I believe that any film dealing with the subject matter, especially, as some have complained “so shortly after”, should be a tribute, respectful and as factually made as possible. So, no conspiracy theories here, hooray for Oliver. Not that conspiracy theories can’t be really fun to watch and/ or read about… but not now, not yet, not about this, and thankfully, Stone got that straight. Oh, and this one is based on a true story. Check out the real dudes, Will Jimeno and Sergeant John McLoughlin.
Although WTC focuses on the two survivors, only mentioning the thousands that weren’t so lucky at the end, I still think Stone did a good job on this one and you remember the rest of them every second of the film. It is extremely emotional... so if you don’t like to cry, don’t go see it. Really. My husband, Stone-Cold, and my absolutely too-cool-for-this-world teenage son went with me and both of them were gulping. This movie will hurt your heart, unless it’s made of a big lump of rock that says “the terrorists were just doing what they believed in” and in that case you can kiss my ass on your way right off this website. Wait, kiss it three times. And then stick a knife in your face while you’re at it.
It is a patriotic movie (Say what? Oliver Stone? Say yes- Patriotic, red, white and blue beautiful!), and a whisper to the patriot that probably lurks within us all. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only viewer who felt a lump in my throat at that badass former marine who pretty much epitomizes “patriotism” in this movie.
This dude, Dave Karnes, feels that he has a “mission” from God to leave his hometown and go to NY to help people. Despite what other people say, he puts on his old marine uniform, which gets him past the police check points, and starts climbing through the rubble on his own. Can you say balls? That was AWESOME! Yeah, I’m spoiling here, (if you don’t like it- stop reading!) but it’s obvious through the whole flick that this is the guy who is going to find those two buried men- this retired Jack Reacher type dude who is not going to be stopped by nothing. At one point, staring down through the rubble that covers the trapped duo, while they beg him not to leave, he dismisses the fear simply, matter of factly… “We’re marines, and you are our mission.” I’d like to have that guy at my back. I’d feel (probably as they did) that it was a damn fine thing to be this man’s mission, and everything was going to be ok after all. Marines? Hell yes- the marines are here! (one of the men is saying this happily, almost deliriously, to the other) That’s a good statement to be able to make in a crisis.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but 9/11 lives with me. I know some people who act like it never happened. I’m not one of them. Although my personal circle was barely affected by the events, (a friend’s father was killed, one of my friends was in the South Tower and did get out, though the stories he told later were enough to make me have nightmares) it rocked my world. I remember crying for days. I remember thinking that nothing would ever be the same. I remember wanting vengeance, blindly and bloodthirstily, in a way I don’t remember ever feeling before and not really knowing who our targets were supposed to be, something many people in this country are still struggling to figure out, I believe. I remember understanding, finally, what my Grandmother was trying to make me understand when she explained how she felt about Pearl Harbor.
Ok, Kaat, enough, get to the point of the MOVIE.
The main characters, Cage and Peña, Port Authority police officers, are trapped in an elevator shaft after Concourse five falls on top of them during the collapse of the first tower. Their comrades are dead, they are both pinned and, they concede, probably slowly dying of internal bleeding, and as time drags on and on and frickin ON, their hope of rescue is fading fast. Horrible, really awful shit happens. Like after the first tower falls, the third guy could maybe have gotten out, but he stays to help (as per orders by Cage) and then Tower Two goes down, and he goes down with it. That belts you in the gut. Unexplainable fireballs shoot through the trapped space, a gun goes off crazily, both men screaming and praying, and damn…. My palms had imprints of my fingernails on them. It is harrowing watching them, listening to them try to keep each other awake, as they decide that you have a better chance of not dying if you don’t sleep. They discuss everything from their wives and kids to the theme song to Starksy and Hutch, at times even pulling a smile from the movie-goer, despite the tears that might very well be falling down your face at the same time. They keep reminding each other, don’t sleep. They tell each other, If you die, I will die too, and you know they mean it. It is, like I said, heart-wrenchingly emotional. If I hadn’t known that Marine Man was out there, looking, I would have wanted to stop watching, but I knew he was, and I knew he’d find them. (My faith in Jack Reacher-types just doesn’t die) In one of the most intense scenes, to me, Peña, thinking his leg is the only thing between rescuers and Cage, tells them to cut it off, and you know that he’s completely sincere.
Meanwhile, we also follow the stories of the two men’s wives (Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal) as they struggle with the endless wait, not knowing if their husbands are dead or alive. These women are tough, no doubt about it, but the viewer can see their strong resolve slowly starting to crumble, and damnit if my own heart wasn’t crumbling along with them. Being female, and relating strongly with these characters, I just can’t write any more about them. I lose my ability to write coherently when I think about what it must have been like, not only for them, those lucky two, but for the thousands that didn’t get their loved ones back.
There are a lot of ouch moments in this movie…from the get-go. Stone captures, without exploiting, the many horrors of that day, from the dazed office workers covered in soot and dirt wandering around dazedly, to the paralyzing shock of a person plunging from the heights, presumably choosing to jump to death rather than burn in the flames of the wreckage. He demonstrates well the rumors that flew that day, as anyone can remember…no one knowing what was happening, a thousand stories and none of them true. I remember reading online that they rescued a hundred people from one little office that had miraculously stayed up…of course it wasn’t true, and it crushed me when I realized it, since the idea had buoyed my hopes so high. At one point, as the two men wonder what is happening above them, how long it will take before they are found, the camera pans back, and back, through the dirt and steel and tons of twisted shit, to a wide shot of the absolute destruction that was ground zero, showing us that the men are effectively two needles in a haystack that people are afraid to even start to look through. In reality, despite the many “amazing stories”, only twenty people were pulled from the wreckage after the collapse of the Towers. Only twenty. That number will keep me awake at night.
If you’re a cynic, don’t watch this show. Go watch Bill Maher’s movie or something.
If you sympathize with terrorists, don’t watch it either. Go kill yourself with a potato peeler.
If you’re emotional, prepare to bawl buckets. I sure did.
I give it five &s.
& it was real
& it was hopeful
& it was respectful
& it was a tribute & it was really, really good acting that twisted my guts