France / United Kingdom / United States
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Andrea Berloff
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello
Release Date: August 9, 2006
The scope and scale of World Trade Center is ambitious enough to cover one of America's greatest tragedies. Even though it often feels like Hallmark Channel fodder it is still capable of moving those willing to see it.
In World Trade Center we follow two Port Authority Police officers, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (played by Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña) on the day of September 11th, 2001. They are just as shocked as the rest of us were when the planes strike the towers, but they actually risk their lives to save those inside. After the towers collapse they are stuck inside while their wives (Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal) fear the worst back at home.
World Trade Center plays things very safe, so careful as to not shed any victims in a disapproving light. It brews sentimentality with the story of sacrifice and survival, begging us to feel for its characters. The scene where Jimeno's wife goes to the hospital and sees the wall of pictures - others also looking for loved ones - is an image unto itself with a long-lasting effect.
Most surprising is that this product comes from Oliver Stone, a filmmaker who is no stranger to controversial and conspiring subject matter. Surely someone who had so much to say about the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War can infuse more personality and add this to his distinct historical canon. Ultimately, this particular story of that day isn't one that lends itself to that treatment. It honors the victims and their families and even the wild likes of Nic Cage have been tamed to tread lightly.
I still await a "quintessential 9/11 film" (though United 93 certainly did its part) that the event demands. Until then, World Trade Center does its service in a heartfelt way.