Release Date: August 9th, 2006 by Paramount Pictures.
The Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Hernandez, Michael Shannon, Frank Whaley, Stephen Dorff.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
BASIC PREMISE: Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin (Cage) and Will Jimeno (Peña) struggle to remain alive under the rubble of the World Trade Center.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: World Trade Center has plenty of dramatic tension that builds from a simple, straightforward plot. In the first act, the Port Authority police officers go about their business as usual—they wake up before dawn, say good-bye to their families, and leave to work in different means of transportation. An unnecessary, obvious caption comes onscreen which reads “September 11th, 2001.” When the first plane hits the one of the towers, everyone feels the rumble and then the panic sets in. Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin, Will Jimeno and the rest of their team immediately head to the World Trade Center area by bus. When the first tower collapses, John and Will get trapped many feet under the rubble of Tower One. At that point, World Trade Center becomes gripping, suspenseful and powerful as they both try to remain alive. Fortunately, Nicholas Cage and Michael Peña both give convincing performances. The same thing can be said for Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhal as John’s wife and Will’s wife, respectively. Screenwriter Andrea Berloff does a superb job of maintaining realism by including scenes of the officers’ families reacting at the present time as well as flashbacks to their past when they were all together. Also, Berloff keeps the plot extremely focused without going off on any distracting tangents—i.e. there’s no footage of George W. Bush. She also surprisingly adds some brief comic relief. Director Oliver Stone expertly cuts between the scenes above ground to the horrific scene below ground—a very dark, hellish location. Basically, what makes this film so engrossing is that during the scenes below ground, you feel like you’re trapped in there with John and Will, while above ground you feel like you’re part of their family who waits anxiously, minute-by-minute, to be reunited with their loved ones.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Every human being will be moved to some degree by the second act as John and Will cling onto their lives while their families await their return with their eyes glued to their TV sets. When the rescuers finally arrive, it’s easy to feel a sense of relief and joy for the miraculous survival—although, concurrently, there’s a deep sense of sadness for the many others who perished. The beautiful musical score adds to the strong emotional impact which lasts long after the end credits roll.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: A gripping, focused, and emotionally-powerful film.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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