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world trade center
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World Trade Center

Starring Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff, Jay Hernandez, Michael Shannon
Screenplay by Andrea Berloff
Directed by Oliver Stone

IN SHORT: A very affecting sit. [Rated PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language. 125 minutes]

As we have mentioned from time to time, Cranky was born, and resides in, New York City. We celebrated a friend's wedding at the Windows on the World restaurant atop the towers, looking down at a tiny Brooklyn Bridge and making a mental note to bring a camera the next time we were up on the 101st floor. Three weeks later we watched in horror as the Word Trade Center towers burned and fell.

Truth be told, we didn't necessarily want to see a film recreating that event. Of course, knowing that director Oliver Stone was overseeing this particular project meant to us that, if the film was going to crash and burn, it would do so spectacularly -- Stone does nothing half-assed but, then again, as a New Yorker we're going to see and feel a different film than non-New Yorkers. That being written and for your information, had it come a couple of hours later, Cranky could have lost one family member in the World Trade Center attack. On almost any other day it would have been two family members in the WTC complex, one in 7 WTC which is also depicted falling in the film. That is the closest we came to almost walking out. Didn't. Enough abut us. Onwards.

Of the twenty survivors pulled from the wreckage of the fallen towers, World Trade Center tells the stories of numbers eighteen and nineteen, Port Authority policemen John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), who had been dispatched to the towers after the first attack to aid evacuation and rescue efforts. Stone wisely avoids a step-by-step re-creation of the actual events of the attack, meaning no CGI recreation or leasing of the tape of the actual impact, but does let loose with the effects of the attack on the shopping councourse below the towers. That is where three officers, including one Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez), were at the time of the second attack. Trapped because of the second attack, when the towers came down, only two survived.

That last sentence may appear to spoil a "surprise." Trust us, it doesn't.

Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) are the wives at home. World Trade Center could easily have degenerated into something akin to old mining disaster films but it doesn't. And, given Stone's affinity for political controversy, it carefully avoids what we New Yorkers would consider the most damning bit of video -- Arabs dancing in joy -- as the film rockets around the world to show reaction to news reports of the attack. That reaction also includes an ex-Marine, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), who gets a buzz cut and suits up, bluffing his way past barricades into the site, eventually locating two survivors. In goes ESU officers Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff) and Paddy McGee (Stoney Westmoreland) and paramedic Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley) to effect rescue.

Again, we could tell you every second of this film and it won't detract from whatever you get from sitting through it. We write as an American for Americans and this film of two Americans keeping each other alive just long enough is a strongly affecting sit.

World Trade Center is a very well made film. We're not putting the usual "dollar rating" on it out of respect for the dead. The film does have a few minor moments when it slows but that's picking at nits. What is important to note is a terrific performance by actor Michael Peña. The man is no novice, but he has been flying beneath the radar. No longer.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.