Tuesday, August 08, 2006
World Trade Center at AMC Lincoln Square
Director Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is a good movie. But not great. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as I didn't feel like it was striving for greatness. What it does strive to accomplish is portray goodness in the small everyday ways that made us proud of 9/11 at the time and not just sad and angry. It's effective in telling the story that we all know, but on a very human scale, one that is worth experiencing as an antidote or perhaps a complement to the mass media version we share. The mother-lode of facts and questions that have inundated us in the past five years are not what this movie is about. It's not about the 9/11 Commission report. It's not even about conspiracy theories, which you might otherwise expect from Stone. There are tears to be shed, of course, but it rarely if ever feels manipulative. Unless of course you see the entire enterprise of making a movie about such events five years later as manipulative. I didn't, even though it's become rather easy to get cynical about the aftermath of that day and the way it's been handled. The president only makes a brief appearance, on a TV screen, and it's played right down the middle; the same goes for Giuliani, who's heard uttering what might just be his most famous line, one of his legacies as mayor, the one about the number of dead being "more than any of us can bear." There are two or three other moments that depict the anger at the perpetrators. But they don't at all overwhelm the sense that here are regular decent people who have an understanding, even amid the chaos, of what they need to doto prepare for the worst, to shepherd their children, to sacrifice if needed, to stay alive, to keep another person alive, to save someone, to get the job done, even if the job suddenly becomes more than they think they can handle. In short, they know what it means to be good and they try to do it. The challenge with telling the story of two of the mere 20 people to be pulled from the rubble alive is that they were the exception, not the rule. But due attention is paid to the missing posters, the anxious people filling the cafeteria at Bellevue, the breakdown of a mother who probably would not see her son again. And ultimately it's a really uplifting opportunity to trace the experience of the two Port Authority cops and their families, because it highlights the idea that amid everything that went wrong, there were some things that went right. And that's worth remembering.