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August 14, 2006 - Image 9

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-08-14

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August 14, 2006

ARe TSdlan~ilp

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Managing Editor
Oliver Stone's "World Trade Cen-
ter" is about devastation - physi-
cal and emotional, internal and
external, locally
and abroad. It's World Trade
also about hope, Center
the remnants of
which are slightly At the Showcase
more difficult to and Quality 16
pick out, a con- Paramount
sideration the
filmmaker makes a last stab at recon-
ciling with a conspicuous final voice-
over. In many ways it's the first real
Sept. 11 movie Hollywood has made,
following a string of documentaries
that first emerged just weeks after
the attack and culminated last April
with Paul Greengrass's "United 93," a
movie so realist in tone and narrative
intensity that it felt as if it was another
ground-zero nonfiction account of the
events, though it was cast primarily
with professional actors.
Like that film, "World Trade Cen-
ter" is a fictionalized account based
closely on actual events (the only
sort of movie the industry is will-
ing to take a risk on as of yet), but
it's the first major film that deals
with reaction on the ground among
U officers who entered the site and the
families they left behind. It's also the
most commercially viable, cast with
talent old and new - Nicolas Cage,
Jay Hernandez, Maria Bello, Mag-
gie Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena - and
filmed stylishly with a mid-range
budget. For some it will be a vital tale
of heroism, for others an unnecessary
chronicle of ongoing tragedy, but it
is, by most accounts, an emotionally
and historically honorable movie,
carefully crafted with eyes narrowing
on the story of two families of Port
Authority officers trapped inside the
trade center rubble.
The officers are Will Jimeno (Pena)
and John McLoughlin (Cage), two of
the few remaining from their squad
still alive after the first tower falls.
They are stuck under the debris to
varying degrees of injury, though nei-

as the youthful Alexander the Great
in Stone's "Alexander" and one of
the children early in "Mystic River,"
makes the strongest impression as
John's youngest son who refuses to-
wait to find his father.
Because the director is Oliver
Stone - an explosive filmmaker as
unabashed about his political life-
blood as he is about his films' histori-
cal revisionism - there is an added
weight of controversy, though as
Stone and many commentators have
now said, he did not set out to make
a political movie. And he didn't, but
it would be easy to overstate how
much that's true. This is very much
the story of the two men, but there's
a sequence, for example, that docu-
ments worldwide reaction to news
coverage of the attacks, a minor but
telling montage that aims to dispel
the notion that Sept. 11 happened
only to the United States. There's
also a subplot. involving a former
Marine (Michael Shannon) who sees
the aftermath of the attacks, suddenly
reenlists and travels to the chaos at
Ground Zero. Such digressions are
Stone's mark, however slight, and he
does make the film his own, even if
it's not through the customarily vola-
tile avenues.
That's not to say Stone isn't under a
certain level of unspoken restriction,
because he is on a short leash here, at
least in the eyes of most Americans.
When he ends the film with (among
other things) a reminder that citizens
of 84 nations died that day, the dis-
pleasure of many in the audience is
audible, if not especially pronounced.
Fiction with Sept. 11 as the backdrop
for romance and familial tragedy and
even murder mystery has been around
for some time, but the Hollywood
response is under a much greater
microscope. Debate over the mer-
its of the existence of "World Trade
Center" will not end anytime soon,
and it's only a matter of time before
an incisive fictional film about the
tragedy breaks through. But for now,
it seems as if Stone's vision taps into
the public consciousness at the right
frequency, and that is both its great-
est challenge and its most impressive

Nicolas Cage stars as real-life Port Authority Officer John McLoughlin in "World Trade Center."

ther seems likely to survive. As the
formula inherent in this sort of story
would dictate - and there is a for-
mula here, if not one driving the story
then one that determines what hap-
pens onscreen and off - the families
come into central play after the men

are trapped, with John's wife Donna
(Bello) and Will's wife Allison (Gyl-
lenhaal) as the main focus.
The domestic scenes are sometimes
calm, sometimes anxious, sometimes
devastating. They dominate the film
both for practical reasons and for

slyer emotional ones, because these
are the people the audience knows
and understands, and with whom it
can most readily identify. The per-
formances are for the most part rou-
tine and effective, although the young
Connor Paolo, best known for bit parts


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