Andrea: Watching Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center is much like removing a band-aid from a healing wound: the injury itself no longer hurts as it first did, but the memory of that pain rushes back as the adhesive resists coming away from the skin. And often we aren’t prepared to see that the wound beneath the bandage hasn’t completely healed.
Steve: I think that was the experience for a lot of people in the audience.
Andrea: The very things we put into place to protect us can damage us in other unexpected ways.
Steve: For WTC, Stone chose to tell the true story of Port Authority cops who are sent in to evacuate Tower One after it has been hit by the first plane. Only Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and young Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena, Crash) survive the catastrophic collapse of the towers, buried under 20-plus feet of rubble.
Andrea: Their plight is intermingled with emotional scenes of their families, particularly their wives (Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal), reacting first to the news reports of the tragedy, then the realization that their husbands may have been at Ground Zero. And intermingled with that are flashbacks to happier times, to show the audience what kind of family life each of the men had prior to September 11.
Steve: I personally would have been more interested in additional sub-plots about other volunteer-heroes at Ground Zero than the officers’ families. If this movie has a fault, I think this is it.
Andrea: For me, there was too much emphasis on the grief and helplessness of the families, and everyone on the periphery of the event. That anguish and uncertainty was a universal experience for all of us, I think, and as a result, my own personal emotions and memories of that day became intertwined with those on the screen. You’re right — we don’t get to see enough of the experiences of the first (and second) responders there at Ground Zero. Those stories are less familiar and were the far more compelling parts of the film.
Steve: For example, the story of Staff Sergeant Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), the retired Marine turned accountant who puts on his old uniform and on his own initiative drives to Ground Zero to search for survivors. At first, I thought that was some sort of Oliver Stone fictional device. But like the rest of the movie, this is a true story. This was my favorite part of the film: this gung-ho guy, who meets up with another like-minded Marine, are alone together climbing through this pile of rubble that could collapse at any moment. Amazing.
Andrea: It was surprising to see this ultra-patriotic and devoutly religious character in an Oliver Stone film. Kudos go to Stone for keeping his own political commentary to a minimum — there are no conspiracy theories to be found whatsoever.
Steve: If anything, Stone perhaps plays it too straight…he doesn’t stray into his trademarked political statements. Maybe he’s holding that back for another film.
Andrea:I think people will be surprised by how respectfully he handles the subject, and how well he represents what a lot of people were thinking and praying about at the time.
Steve: Despite its narrative flaws, this is a very effecting movie. Needless to say, this is the sort of filmgoing experience where people linger in the dark while the credits roll, drying their eyes before walking into the lobby’s bright lights.