Until now, I had never seen an Oliver Stone film. They’re all rated R and usually filled with violence too graphic for my tastes. The only clip I ever saw of Platoon was about three seconds of a violent rape scene, and it was enough to convince me that Oliver Stone movies are — shall we say? — not for me.
But I had heard and read good things about World Trade Center, Stone’s latest. And since I had already experienced the violence it depicts, having seen all the horror of September 11th as it unfolded on live TV five years ago, I wasn’t worried about being exposed to Platoon level violence. The movie is based on real accounts, after all.
As it turns out, World Trade Center IS violent, very violent, far more than I suspected it to be. Personally, I would have given it an R rating. The depiction of death is too real, too gruesome. Yes, those moments are brief, but so was the rape scene in Platoon, and it haunts me to this day, burned forever in my memory. This simply isn’t the kind of movie a 13 year-old should be admitted to see.
Some of the moments were so harrowing in fact that that Lauren and I had stop to movie, go online, and read the synopsis of the film. We had to know if certain characters were going to survive or not before we could finish watching the film. It was too close to us. September 11 is too fresh a memory. The people depicted in the film were real people with families and loved ones and bright futures ahead of them. I suppose I should have known that watching something like this would cause all the emotions of September 11 to swell up in Lauren and me again, but I wasn’t prepared for that. So we had to go online and find out what happened. We had to know if the characters would pull through or not. It was going to be too painful an expereince to watch them suffer without knowing if a happy ending wasn’t waiting at the end of the tunnel. Whether that happy endiing comes or not, I won’t say. You should experience the film for yourself.
The story revolves around two port-authority police officers (played by Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena) who are trapped twenty feet under the rubble of the World Trade Center. They’re both pinned down, unable to move or call for help. But you can’t set a two-hour movie down in a dark hole where the actors can’t move. That would be a play. Besides, the people affected by September 11 were not only those trapped in the rubble or those who perished in the incident. Families suffered. Loved ones suffered. And so Oliver Stone cuts back and forth between the police officers and their families who fear their hunsbands and fathers may have died. They don’t know. They can’t get word. All they can do is sit and wait. And the performances by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhall as the officers’ wives is both honest and inspiring. While their husbands endured a physical hell, they endured an emotional one.
The website dedicated to the film has far more special features than the DVD did. After the film, Lauren and I spent another half hour at the site watching the video interviews of the people depicted in the film. So yes, some of the characters survive. If you don’t want to know who, don’t go to the website until after you’ve seen the film. But the interviews are great. It was fascinating to meet the real the people so soon after seeing them protrayed in the film.
Should you see this movie? Only you can decide, but I’m glad I did. It reminded me of how important the war on terror is. It reminded me that there are evil people out there who want to destroy our society as we know it. And yet, there are a lot of good people as well. Brave people. Selfless people. People with real guts, real heart. And that is what makes World Trade Center such a wonderful film. My only gripe — and it’s a big one — is the film’s depiction of a former US Marine who’s participation in the rescue efforts was critical and who, for whatever reason, chose not to collaborate with Oliver Stone in the making of the film. As a result, the marine is depicted as a Christian zealot, kind of a half-crazed god-fearing robot. His character is completely unbeleiveable and probably no where close to being accurate. Yes, he was a Christian. But instead of making Christians look like selfless, decent people, Oliver Stone has to make them seem like dumb zombies. Shame on Oliver Stone for this. Lauren and I were so bothered by it, that we did some research online about the guy. Turns out, a writer from Slate magazine had interviewed the real former Marine. And guess what? He’s not crazy. He’s simply a private person. And Oliver Stone’s depiction of him in the film infuriated the journalist who had actually met the guy. So yeah, Oliver Stone has an obvious bias. Too bad he couldn’t have toldl the complete truth as it unfolded. That would have made a good film even better.