World Trade Center Movie Review

National Center Research Associate Nick Cheolas attended an advance screening of the new Oliver Stone film “World Trade Center,” and found it remarkably clear of the controversial politics that often characterize Stone’s films. Says Nick:

Oliver Stone is certainly no stranger to controversy – his directorial career is filled with it. So when it was announced that Stone would be directing a feature film about the events of September 11th, many wondered if Stone’s left-wing politics would tarnish the cinematic value of the film.

But in “World Trade Center,” due to be released on August 9, Stone has put those fears to rest. Instead of a conspiratorial polemic, Stone presents a deeply personal narrative of two real-life Port Authority police officers trapped in the rubble of the North Tower.

Stone depicts the story of Officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno in meticulous detail. The effort was “a very austere, technical attempt to be realistic about what happened – to show it as it really was,” he told BBC.

By all accounts, Stone has steered clear of political messages his films have become known for. “It seems to me that the event was mythologized by both political sides, into something that they used for political gain, and I think one of the benefits of this movie is that it reminds us of what actually happened that day, in a very realistic sense” he told the New York Times.

There are no running subplots, no distracting romances and few “Hollywood inventions” in the film. There are no complicated plot twists, subliminal messages, or indictments. The film never shows the planes impacting the twin towers, nor does it focus on those behind the attacks. Footage of political figures is kept to a brief minimum – President Bush and Rudy Giuliani make only brief appearances.

In a sense, this is precisely what made the movie powerful and moving. “World Trade Center,” more than any other movie in recent memory, relies on the knowledge, emotions and views of its audience to succeed, and relies on its viewers to determine the implicit message.

Perhaps no movie in history can claim to have an audience base so personally connected to the content of the film. September 11 unfolded on TV screens, on the front pages of newspapers and on the Internet. Images of people jumping out windows, planes hitting towers and buildings crumbling were beamed live across the world. The meticulous attention to detail in “World Trade Center” is crucial, given that Americans witnessed the events unfold before their very eyes less than five years ago.

Despite the Stone record, “World Trade Center” is only as political as the viewer makes it out to be. That, more than anything else, serves to respect the sensibilities surrounding such a horrific, recent national tragedy. It is so devoid of conspiracy theories that the conspiracy theorists are now criticizing Stone for failing to spread the “truth” about 9/11.

But there is no denying the “truth” about the heroes of September 11. When Jimeno and McLaughlin are pulled from the rubble and passed down a seemingly endless line of actual rescue workers, it serves as a testament to those who risked their lives to save others. Former Marine Dave Kearns, who originally discovered the trapped officers, stands amongst the rubble and declares, “We’re going to need a lot of good men to avenge this.”

By avoiding that for which he is known – conspiracy theories and politics – Stone has made a more powerful movie. By the time the closing credits of “World Trade Center” roll, the audience is left in solemn silence, some even brought to tears. It is, fittingly, the same way many of us watched the events unfold in real life, almost five years ago.

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