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World Trade Center: The Film

08 Sep 2017Film Essays

The event that shook the world on 9/11 was all about terrorism. However, Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center has nothing whatsoever to do with the evil that the global public has been hearing about in all contexts since that fateful day. Instead, the movie is about life and the importance of it. While life is perfectly suitable for reflection, September 11, 2001 was a day of death – of the huge number of people that lost their lives, in addition to a way of life that the world enjoyed. Thus, Oliver Stone’s film about the 9/11 disaster is a sure disappointment for movie goers seeing that it does not deliver what the public expected it to. The film is entertaining, “but when it comes to an event of such historic magnitude as September 11, who asked for entertainment?” – asks Koeff, writing for The Washington Times (A16).

Documentaries have performed a finer task of helping the world understand how tragic, horrific, and destructive a blow 9/11 was to the American people. Besides, United 93 was certainly more appropriately made than World Trade Center. Koeff has also written that Oliver Stone had the opportunity this time to create a gift for history books! Even so, the director ended up giving the audience “more of the same old dramatic Hollywood dazzle (Koeff).”

World Trade Center, the film, is actually a story about love, bravery, and family – the fundamental elements of human living. The story focuses on two main characters who are Port Authority cops and among the last of the twenty survivors pulled out from the rubble of the World Trade Center on 9/11. However, the real story of 9/11 concerns those thousands of people who were killed in the disaster, and many more thousands who got out alive. It is also about the price that has been paid by the people of the United States and around the globe since that fatal day. By concentrating on two main characters who survived the disaster, the tragedy is most definitely understated.

Travers writes for Rolling Stone that Oliver Stone made a “cautious, earnestly factual and emotionally unassailable film.” The director’s attempt is certainly “cautious” and “earnestly factual (Travers).” Making fiction out of the 9/11 tragedy definitely would not have pleased anybody. In spite of this, it would have been best for Oliver Stone to gather real accounts of many more survivors for filming. Including a large number of survivors would have made the movie extremely action packed like The Day After Tomorrow. All the same, that is exactly what the American public seemed to have expected from a movie about the World Trade Center disaster on 9/11.

As far as the emotions that the film incites are concerned, nobody would deny that the 9/11 tragedy continues to stir up emotions world over in any case. Reminders of the tragedy are almost always followed up by emotions of shock and grief. Both United 93 and World Trade Center bring tears to the eyes. Hence, Oliver Stone cannot be given credit because his film stirs up strong emotions in most if not all of its viewers. The film is about survival and selflessness, yet we cannot forget the thousands of people who did not survive the tragedy and whom no selfless human managed to help out. Even as America moves forward after the tragedy keeping in mind survival and selflessness as two of the most treasured universal values – it also cannot forget that the evil known as terrorism, which has been completed ignored by the film, has caused unmentionable misery.

Ansen, who attended the New York premiere of the film, wrote the first review of the film which was published in The Mirror. According to the author: “World Trade Center has no interest in terrorism. It’s explicitly about heroism. It may strike some, at first glance, as a surprisingly conventional film from this controversial filmmaker (Ansen 16).” Ansen also quotes Oliver Stone: “’The beauty of the script was that it had hope,’ says Stone (Ansen 16).” Yet, it was the kind of hope that cannot erase the sadness of the day that remains in almost everybody’s emotional life. What is more, nobody remembers the tragedy in the context of two police officers trapped in the collapsed building.

After all, police officers die every day because their work is dangerous. Oliver Stone could have made a film about a fire, too, in which two police officers were about to lose their lives. The hypothetical film would have had the same effect on the people as did World Trade Center.

Given that the American public has heard enough about terrorism since 9/11, the film was really expected to capture some of the reality behind the event. But it may be that Oliver Stone deliberately left terrorism out of his picture knowing that the Americans may be tired of learning about this evil. In actuality, the film turned out to be only about partial hope, given that so many people died in the tragedy, never to find hope again in the life of this world.

Koeff points out that the American public may not be ready to watch an entire film about everything we have so far learned about the tragedy on 9/11. According to the author, World Trade Center is a half-hearted attempt to film the tragedy. It can be inferred from this message that perhaps Oliver Stone had not the courage to portray 9/11 in greater depth. Koeff writes:

Hollywood has the power to take us into the September 11 nightmare. Imagine seeing an
aircraft burst through an expansive office suite at 500 miles an hour. Imagine following a
woman as she falls hundreds of floors, her prayers barely audible over the rush of wind. I
personally don't think America is ready to experience this drama. I feel uneasy even creating
the description.

It is but natural for World Trade Center, the film, to be rife with religion. There are characters in the film that turn to their faith for comfort. One of the characters has a vision of Jesus. Still, as Toto reports for The Washington Times, Oliver Stone has overplayed the religious part, making a truly haunting and private moment one of dramatic overplay (B05). As a matter of fact, the dramatic portrayal of the vision may be considered comical in the context of the fateful day. The moment should have been kept hidden, and perhaps only explained by the character in great detail.

Of a certainty, World Trade Center, the movie, has failed to deliver. One may expect Hollywood to come up with more films covering the event. Considering the seriousness of the day also in the light of the series of fateful events that have followed it, viewers may prefer to watch excellent documentaries rather than Hollywood drama about 9/11.

Works Cited

  • Ansen, David. “Heroism, Not Terrorism; as the Fifth Anniversary 9/11 Looms One of the World'
  • Controversial Film Directors Releases His Take on the Tragedy. Here's the First Review. WORLD TRADE CENTER.” The Mirror (August 7, 2006).
  • Koeff, Bryan Jay. “'World Trade Center' Disappoints.” The Washington Times (August 16, 2006).
  • Toto, Christian. “Sentiment but No Vision; Stone's 'World Trade Center' Earnest about September 11.” The Washington Times (August 9, 2006).
  • Travers, Peter. “World Trade Center.” Rolling Stone (August 3, 2006). 
  • The Day after Tomorrow. Dir. Roland Emmerich. 2004. World Trade Center. Dir. Oliver Stone. 2006. United 93. Dir. Paul Greengrass. 2006.

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