Tuesday, August 15, 2006

World Trade Center (2006, Oliver Stone)

There’s a key moment late in WORLD TRADE CENTER that sums up pretty nicely my misgivings about the film. While a group of rescue workers are digging through the rubble to reach the protagonists, they come upon the body of another character who dies early in the film. As they continue onward to the still-buried survivors, one firefighter covers the corpse with his coat, and that’s the last we ever hear from him. By and large, that’s the film’s M.O. in a nutshell- it seeks to uplift us with the story of survival and triumph over tragedy by glossing over the deaths that took place on 9/11. The problem isn’t that the story of McLoughlin and Jimeno ends happily (that’s how it really happened, so we shouldn’t begrudge them that) but that the film is so determined to end on a positive note that the larger reality of the day- that thousands of lives were lost as a result of the WTC tragedy- barely seems to register. Was the life of the man whose corpse was discovered near the heroes any less important just because he didn’t survive? The film doesn’t seem to think so. UNITED 93 was hardly a perfect film, but at least the acknowledged the grimmer side of the day, whereas this is just a TV-ready boy-in-a-well story, given some measure of relevance by the 9/11 backdrop. No wonder that the Right has embraced this movie, as it closely resembles our Administration’s approach to the war in Iraq (yes: heroism, flag-waving; no: death, dissent, bad news). For me, however, the film misses the boat by sanitizing the tragedy so acutely, since without the very real and omnipresent spectre of death in the equation most of the drama is gone from the story. As a result, it just felt like two guys waiting to be found instead of the same two guys who just as easily could have died down there.

Rating: *1/2.

Editor's Note: Right now the plan is to continue with the film-related content. It was getting to be a bit much to write about everything I saw, so for the time being I'll try two a week- one new release and one oldie. Let's see if I can keep it up...

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