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"World Trade Center"

Directed by Oliver Stone.
Written by Andrea Berloff.  Based on a true story.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  8/2/06


I was interested to see tonight's freebie, "World Trade Center", since it was the first big-budget release of 9/11 featuring People You've Heard Of.  Directed by Oliver Stone, it was set to be the first truly big release based on one of our nation's most tragic days.

While not perfect, "World Trade Center" does a great job of telling one story amidst the most chaotic day maybe of my lifetime; Stone is wise to keep bringing us back to what was happening in New York City and elsewhere on that rough-and-tumble Tuesday morning five years ago while getting us engaged in our story:  Port Authority cops John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña, most recently from "Crash") happen to be working the morning shift on 9/11, and their unit is called in to assist the evacuation of one of the World Trade Center buildings when it literally falls on top of them.  Trapped and with little shot of survival, the two men keep each other's spirits alive while rescuers attempt to find them.  All the while, the two men's families--most notably, their wives (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello)--keep the prayer lines open as they try to find out the whereabouts of their husbands.

And that's it, really--two hours of it.  The building collapse sequence took my breath away, not because of its overly cool special effects but because I really caught myself for about ten minutes thinking about how ridiculously scary it must have been to have a 100-story building literally fall on top of you.  Seriously, can you even begin to imagine, if you weren't in one of the towers yourself?  A FUCKING BUILDING FELL ON THESE GUYS!!!  That the twosome survive the initial collapse is a miracle unto itself.  But, within 20 minutes of screen time, the planes have hit, The Pentagon's been hit, the building has fallen on these guys and they are trapped, and it was honestly a bit too long of a film for us to watch these two guys trapped for that length of time.

Luckily, Peña and Cage are excellent as the cops, and the supporting cast that we get to meet in-between shots of the twosome buried beneath a bunch of rubble is very strong.  Gyllenhaal and Bello are good, if seemingly familiar, female leads; they aren't given much to do but in general their work is strong.  Stone clearly has talent if he can make Stephen Dorff come off as decent without anyone clownin' him.  The bits I enjoyed the most are the periodic interludes of random Americans watching television in disbelief around the country and continuous shots of NYPD, NYC fire and emergency and military personnel with the familiar ashen faces of the many ways, "World Trade Center" is a load, a tough flick for anyone that has vivid memories of 9/11 or--worse--lived in NYC at the time of the disaster.  In many ways, this is like WWII vets watching the intro of "Saving Private Ryan"; many people will have such a tough time watching just the initial moments of "World Trade Center" because seeing the archive video clips of the tower collapse brought tears to a number of people in my audience.

And the tears flowed for a few folks near me from start to finish, as even after the two cops are discovered in their rubble grave, an epic effort by the collected service personnel is required to get the cops out.  I liked that Stone dove into this, as opposed to just giving us a discovery and then an epilogue; it gives you a greater appreciation of just how lucky McLoughlin and Jimeno were that day, given their circumstances.

The film is very slow in the middle; I couldn't wait for the guys to get rescued after a while, because the non-cop bits are just not as interesting.  I was actually a bit disappointed that we didn't get more star power, given the director and the main storyline of the film; in addition to low-wattage guys like Dorff, we get Michael Shannon in a pivotal role (he played a low-rent hick in "Bad Boys II") and "Torque" co-star Jay Hernandez as another Port Authority cop.  But, that was probably intentional--the no-names make the the true-to-life basis of the film more believable and the film overall is very solid.  This one's heavy, but you get what you pay for with a film called "World Trade Center."

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09