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August 13, 2006
Movie Review: World Trade Center

When I first heard that Oliver Stone planned on making a film about 9/11, I admit that I had misgivings -- big misgivings. Not only did I worry about his predilection for conspiracy theories and bad history, but also about his style of filmmaking -- showy, pretentious, egotistical, and distracting. His previous full-length cinematic efforts, Alexander and Any Given Sunday, provided excellent examples of Stone at or near his worst, and the subject of 9/11 had plenty of potential for further mischief.

Fortunately, Stone put all of the nonsense away for World Trade Center. He allows to the story of John McGloughlin and Will Jimeno, two Port Authority police officers, tell itself. Stone gives his best directorial effort since Wall Street, keeping the trick photography and weird editing on the workbence and instead gives us a taut, touching, and strangely spiritual film.

McGloughlin and Jimeno go into the towers in order to perform evacuation and rescue, but the buildings come down around them while they are still staging their efforts in the concourse between the two buildings. Due to McGloughlin's knowledge and instincts, most of his six-man team make it into the elevator shaft area. Three of them survive the collapse, and one other dies shortly thereafter. For hours, McGloughlin and Jimeno had only themselves and the rubble for company, and neither could see the other. Badly injured and cut off from their command, they spent hours trying to keep each other alive.

Stone expertly intercuts their story with that of their families, as well as the rest of America in the aftermath of the attack. In a simple and matter-of-fact way, Stone shows the terrible resolve that formed throughout the day, as ordinary Americans asked themselves what this event called for them to do. One such man, David Karnes, put on his Marine fatigues despite having been discharged from the service and made his way to Manhattan, believing that God called him to duty at the WTC -- and he plays a crucial role in the rescue. Karnes re-enlisted after his efforts in Manhattan and served two tours of duty in Iraq.

I don't want to give too much away. That the two men survive should be obvious; they were two of only 20 to be rescued from the towers after the collapse. Stone paints everyone in very human terms, and even allows some moments of grim levity to enter into the film, a much needed palliative at times. He treats the men and women of thsi story with great humanity, honors their spirituality (especially Karnes', which was a pleasant surprise), and in the end shows how heroic all of these men and women turned out to be.

Stone's film can sit proudly with United 93 as honest and straightforward retellings of the important stories from 9/11. The story of the rescue of two PAPD officers may not have had the same historical impact as that of the heroes on Flight 93, but it shows that heroics came in many forms on that horrible day. I highly recommend this film to everyone.

UPDATE: United 93 gets released on DVD on September 5th, and is available for pre-order from Amazon at the link.

UPDATE II: The story of Staff Sergeant Karnes has been told by Slate, among others. As Power Line notes, don't read this if you want to see the movie, because the movie tells the entire story in almost complete accuracy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 13, 2006 8:06 PM

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» World Trade Center from Blog From the Underground
I went to see World Trade Center today and Imust say I was extremely impresses. The criticisms of the movie seem to me to be based on the assumption that Oliver Stone must not be making a serious 9/11 movie. A frequent criticism of the movie seems to b... [Read More]

Tracked on August 13, 2006 8:52 PM

» World Trade Center, the Movie from QT Monster's Place
Every adult American needs to see Oliver Stone's great film, World Trade Center. I saw the movie on Friday night, and for me, watching it was a profound and gut wrenching experience. It brings home the inescapable fact of the horror, terror and pain in... [Read More]

Tracked on August 14, 2006 11:45 AM


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