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World Trade Centre (2005)

World Trade Center. Feature film. (2005, 128 mins) IMDB

...Don't make films where you can't see the actor's face....

T

here isn't a lot we don't know about what happened in NYC on Sept. 11. It's been written about and documented and now made into a feature film based on real events. This film doesn't add anything new.

For legal reasons, the film focuses on two Port Authority police officers on the day of. We see them early on that day as they go about their job. Then the first crash and they move into action. As I say, the focus is on them because of legal reasons. The producers had rights to their story and not other people.

Cage plays a seasoned cop in charge of a bunch of PAPD officers which includes Pena. With the attack he is asked to lead a team to help with the evacuation of WTC 1. They don't know or understand 2 was hit. At random, Cage picks from the group a smaller team to travel south to the WTC. In that group is Pena. When they arrive, it's chaotic. They're not sure who is in charge or what to do. They in the process of collecting their gear when WTC 2 collapses. By luck or by design, they are between the buildings and below the street. They rush to an elevator shaft because it's safer. When the dust settles, Cage and Pena and a third officer are alive and trapped. Others aren't heard from. Then the second tower collapses. The third officer dies not long after. This represents the end of the first act and to this point, the focus has been on the cops.

In Act II, the longest stretch of this and most movies, we simply can't stay down in the hole with the two cops. There just isn't much they can do. They are trapped and pinned under concrete and debris. Fortunately Hollywood didn't invent too much stage conflict the bridge the gap, instead we shift focus outside to the wives of the officers and would be rescuer. We see how they learn of the news and how desperate they grow and, well, all the typical tears and screaming sort of moments.

Somewhere a retired Marine sergeant decides the country is now at war and he's back on duty. He takes off his suit, gets a buzz cut, puts his field uniform on and goes to ground zero where they let him pass. Once near the pile of crumbled buildings, he begins to search for survivors. It's dark. The other rescuers have stayed clear because it's not safe. He's joined by another marine and eventually they come across Cage and Pena trapped underneath. That's the end of Act II, but it doesn't fit the description because at this point in the story our heroes should be in a position where they have lost all hope and in this moment that doesn't happen.

Act III is about the challenges of rescue workers crawling down and through the rubble. Of not getting burnt. Of not getting trapped from another collapse. It's dangerous work but they manage to pull the men out.

As the rescue progresses, the wives receive premature news their husbands are alive and healthy. They get a surprise when the men eventually show up at the hospital.

In the post film titles, we learn the men lived, had many surgeries, retired. The Marine sergeant went off to Iraq.

Only 20 people were rescued from the collapsed buildings.

Since we know the outcome, the story lacks suspense. Further, we never have a reason to care for them.

The melodramatic family relationships between the two couples and the wives and their family lacks originality and therefore interest. It seems like a Hollywood concoction.

I'm not saying it's a terrible film, because it isn't, it's more a movie-of-the-week film for TV instead of a feature film with Cage and Oliver Stone.

Cage's talents are missing because he spends the bulk of the film motionless in a dark, cramped space. We don't get to see his eyes or facial expressions--two key tools for an actor.

The lack of lighting, natural to the circumstances, for the same reason makes the Act III scenes hard to appreciate because it's mostly voices and darkness.

I suspect because it was almost entirely US citizens involved in telling about an event that touches them emotional and personally, it affected their judgement. Too sentimental about it. Maybe more time between the real events and the making of the film would have improved the story, but perhaps not.

A much better film about that day is UNITED 93. What makes it a better film is not what is told, again we know the story, but how it's told.

So much for a short entry.

Posted 2009/02/06 at 11h02ET in Movie Commentary.

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