This last weekend I attended World Trade Center, the new Oliver Stone picture dealing with the tragic events of 9/11/2001. I have to admit, I have not been a huge fan of Oliver Stone. I have found his revisionist approach to history disturbing and while a quality film maker I have felt he takes his responsibility to places that cross the line of responsibility. That said, I wasn’t looking forward to World Trade Center.
As in most areas of life, a few surprises every now and then keep things interesting. It causes one to take chances even on things they may not seemingly be interested in. One of those surprises for me was the quality of work and story telling Oliver Stone presents with World Trade Center. World Trade Center is void of political commentary and is instead the story of the rescue of Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, two Port Authority Police officers rescued from the rubble of the World Trade Center. This story along with the struggles of their families makes for a compelling, thought provoking movie. It is also in part, the story of Dave Karnes one of the individuals who defied reason in his search for survivors of those trapped.
Stone does a brilliant job at directing this piece of art as we see the struggles and lives of Rookie Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) and Sergeant John McLouglin played by Nicolas Gage. Surprisingly Stone tells more of the story from the words of the actual characters Jimeno and McLouglin and their spouses than I would have imagined. He has used the stories told by these individuals along with rescuer Karnes, (Michael Shannon) for much of the dialog in World Trade Center. Not since Blackhawk Down has the actual words and commentary by the actual characters been used. In the telling of that story, we see the importance of faith in each of the characters.
I have to admit, I was shocked at the amount of spiritual commentary used in the film. From a devout Christian, following what he believes to be God’s calling to leave his job, put on the military uniform, and perform rescue efforts involving Dave Karnes, to the pleading and prayers of Sgt. John McLouglin. We also see the visions of Will Jimeno as he is comforted by Jesus, who offers a drink of water while trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center among other things. There is little doubt, that faith played a critical role in the lives of each of these characters. To read the stories of real life events, one realizes that Stone may have minimized the actual faith aspects of the real life characters. That is not to say it isn’t clear that each of the characters were people of faith, it is obvious they were. Their stories indicate that in real life their faith is given even more important.
While faith according to the characters involved in this story was attributed as part of the reason for their rescue, Stone also provides a glimpse as to what it must have been like for the thousands of others who did not come out of the rubble alive. In fact, only a small number were rescued. For many of us, after seeing and watching the tragedy unfold on television, it is miraculous anyone came out alive.
For some, World Trade Center will be a boring movie. Watching two individuals trapped in rubble for half of the two hour movie can be boring to some. I personally found it fascinating and believe one of the great achievements in the movies direction. We get a glimpse of what it must have been like for these two individuals and others. I don’t think Nicolas Cage or Michael Pena will be given enough credit for the tremendous job of acting. In many ways, their work was done in strenuous and difficult conditions. I would go so far as to say, it may be Gages best job as an actor in film. That is saying a lot for me because I have always admired his abilities.
Yes, in some ways, World Trade Center forces each of us to evaluate what is important in our lives. Is it faith? Is it family? Is it friends? What? We never know when our lives will change, or how it will change. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 changed all of our lives. For some, we haven’t forgotten what it was that changed on that day, for others, we went on as if everything was the same and just continued being our selves. I for one am appreciative of reminders, I am especially appreciative of reminders that tells the story without tons of political commentary. Oliver Stone has thrown me the biggest curve ball of the year, and had me swinging away. Thankfully I have an appreciation of people who can do that.
I doubt I’ll watch this movie again for a long time. It isn’t that it is bad, it is that it is that good. Is it perfect? No, but it is still pretty good and a movie I recommend individuals see. See it for the faith of 3 men, and the love they had for their country and their families. Then put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself the important questions, and then, well then, live life to the fullest with the most meaning you can as you come to your own answers to the questions you ponder while watching World Trade Center.
On a scale of 1-10 for these two who live and continue to live life to the fullest, I give a strong 8 out of 10.
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