'World Trade Center' a study of courage over adversity

I experienced something unusual earlier this week. Never in all the years of theater going have I watched a movie with no one saying anything after it was over.

I experienced something unusual earlier this week. Never in all the years of theater going have I watched a movie with no one saying anything after it was over.

But this last Monday after viewing "World Trade Center" no one is the audience made a sound. No talking, shoe scuffling or getting out of seats. And why should anyone? What is to say after seeing more than 2,000 killed and only a handful making it out of the rubble?

Director Oliver Stone, a man known for his controversial films such as "JFK" and "Platoon," tones it down in his latest movie, a wise move. The 9/11 attacks are an already sensitive issue, more so for the survivors and victims' families, even after five years. Consequently, Stone plays it straight, detailing the horrific day from the viewpoints of rescue workers and their loved ones.

For the people involved the day starts like any other -- drowsily getting up to get ready for work or singing to the car radio on the commute to the workplace. Nothing out of the ordinary to indicate what's forthcoming.

"World Trade Center" focuses primary on two people, John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), Port Authority officers who respond to the disaster. While in one of the towers gathering rescue equipment the building collapses, trapping the men under heavy debris. The remainder of the 125-minute film details the men's struggle to stay alive and their family's struggle to stay hopeful in the midst of having no news of their loved ones.


In flashbacks we see the men in their daily lives -- Will and his wife discussing baby names, John helping one of his sons on a carpentry project. It is events such as these that John and Will think about while waiting for rescue. They discuss their lives with each other and encourage each other to not give up. Above ground, John and Will's wives, Donna (Maria Bello) and Allison (Maggie Gyllenhaal) respectively, wait for word while at the same time trying to keep themselves and their children together.

The movie gives the audience two perspectives -- Donna, older and mother of four and Allison, the young wife with one child and another on the way. Allison is more frantic and getting sick with anxiety while Donna continues the house chores to maintain a sense of stability for the kids.

"World Trade Center" is also the story of other individuals like Dave Karnes, the former Marine, or Chuck, the paramedic whose drinking caused his losing his certification.

It was interesting to get a glimpse of what it was like on the scene. Emergency vehicles and personnel, work papers, injured people and falling ash mingle in a chaotic mix, putting a lens on that jumbled day. And actually being in one of the towers, to hear the rumbles and see the structure shake knowing people really experienced this, is startling.

For those leery that the film may be graphic, not to worry. Viewers won't see the planes crashing into the buildings, but instead see the shadow of an airliner. Stone doesn't show any of the dead, but does give a long shot of a person falling from one of the towers.

However, even though the movie is based on real events and people, in a way it is not anything most filmgoers haven't seen before. The scenes where John and Will are trapped are fairly typical -- people are enclosed in a small, dark space, snagged under heavy debris. They are injured, can't move and fear the worst. They spend the rest of the movie urging the other to live, to not give up. Meanwhile the loved ones cry, wring their hands and try to stay hopeful. The only variable in this time around is Will's seeing Jesus.

Otherwise, been there, done that. So anyone expecting something new in "World Trade Center," forget it. But it is heartening to see people come together, helping each other following the horrific actions of a few fanatics filled with hate. The film honors the Sept. 11 rescue workers -- those who made it out and the ones who didn't. And that is worth a moment of silence any day of the week, be it at the movie theater or graveside.

Merilee Reinke covers arts and entertainment. E-mail or call (715) 394-4421, ext. 139.



What: "World Trade Center," rated PG 13

When and where: Daily at Superior 7 theater 1, 4, 6:45 and 9:30 p.m., daily at Lakes 10 theater at 12:30, 3:05, 6:30 and 9:05 p.m. and Duluth 10 theater at 1, 4, 6:50 and 9:30 p.m.

What To Read Next
Get Local