Surprised that I didn’t hear about Lee Harvey Oswald in here at all.
This follows the true story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Officer William J Jimeno (Michael Pena) – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, after they went in to help people escape.
Back in 2006, when this was first coming, people had two reservations about it at first: 1. Is 5 years too soon? and 2. What the hell is Oliver Stone going to do with this material? To be honest, these reservations were both very reasonable and understood at the time because people were (and still are) grieving over their lost ones from that fateful day and Stone has always been known to get pretty crazy and paranoid about the topics he covers. But thankfully, nothing ever really goes down the wrong path here. I mean that too, nothing.
The best part about Stone’s direction here is that he doesn’t pull any punches with this touchy story. That means there’s no conspiracy theories about who was behind the Bush administration at the time or who was actually behind the attacks themselves, but instead just gives us a true story of courage and the man’s will to fight for survival no matter what the obstacles may be standing in their way. Sounds like something that is very out of the ordinary for Stone to direct but he doesn’t lose his mind with this material and keeps everything grounded to where this becomes one of those inspirational stories you would expect it to be.
Going into a film about this certain subject, you have to expect your heartstrings to be tugged at a bit and even though they do, it doesn’t feel manipulative. Simply put, this is Stone’s way of showing us how two policeman, fought for their lives just to stay alive, tell the story of it all, and go on back home to their wife and kids. It’s one of those sappy stories that we always see and hear about but it isn’t used in that same context here. It feels real, it feels genuine, and it feels like something that Stone really does rightfully care about and feel for. Weird to think that this is the same dude who was out there showing Mickey and Mallory shooting people’s heads off, would also be one of the first people to pay tribute to the men and women that died on 9/11.
But aside from being very genuine and true to it’s emotions and who it’s trying to give love towards, there’s not much else here that’s really eventful or groundbreaking in terms of story-telling which makes it a bit more tedious in a way. This is a story about real human-beings being in real-life situation/catastrophe, but maybe there should have been more excitement, more tension, more, I don’t know, more suspense as to know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t asking for a fast-paced action movie that took place in New York during 9/11, but I was just waiting for something to really pull me in fully and keep my eyes glued but instead I just found myself and my mind going into other places. I have no idea but it just did and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t in the most perfect mood to watch this.
The movie looks great with plenty of detail and attention going towards how New York looked like during and after the Towers fell. It was really neat to see how realistic everything looked as you could almost feel the same pandemonium as everybody else did there but there could have been more of that. There was this really cool sequence where Stone gathers real-life footage from people checking out what happened on 9/11 from all over the world and it’s a sequence that shows you the kind of impact this even had on the world, not just our own country. This showed me that Stone maybe played it a little too safe in just focusing on this little story of two men, and could have gone a bit bigger by focusing on the environment surrounding them and how everybody felt during this time but I guess Stone didn’t want to go too far because then he would have had to start bringing out the conspiracy theories, and then things would have gotten bad for this movie.
Oh, another reservation some people may have had about this film beforehand may have also been that Nicolas Cage was in the lead role as Sergeant John McLoughlin, but no need to fear people, he’s actually pretty good here. I think it would be pretty hard for Cage to screw up a role like this, considering he barely moves and just stays underneath a huge piece of rubble the whole film, but the guy does well with it and reminds us that he can still handle roles like these. The one who really gets away with this flick is Michael Peña as Officer William J Jimeno, showing a sweet innocence to him that makes us sympathize with this character even more because all he shows is love and sweetness to everyone around him even before this happened. Both are good and work very well together, as well as everybody else in this cast, but those New York accents got to be a bit too much for me at points. I get it, everybody in this movie is practically from New York or somewhere near there so they have to have an accent but do they really need to be this deep? It get’s distracting at times, but you’ll start to forget about that once you start to see all of the notable faces that Stone has pop-up on the screen. It’s sort of like a really fun game of “Hey, remember me?”.
Consensus: World Trade Center is a rare example of Oliver Stone playing it really, really safe which has it’s positives and negatives, but mostly shows us the true story of two brave Americans that did whatever they could do stay alive in a time and place like New York City during 9/11.