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Rosalea Barker: Movie review - World Trade Center

Movie review: World Trade Center

By Rosalea Barker

There are some things about Oliver Stone's World Trade Center that are great examples of the craft of movie making. One of them comes late in the film, in a hospital waiting room, when one woman comforts another and the point of view -- the interior point of view -- changes with such subtlety that you hardly notice it.

Another is the sound design. I saw World Trade Center in one of the grand old cinemas from the golden age of cinema, the Grand Lake in Oakland. But even a commercial for the Dolby sound system that played before the feature couldn't prepare me for the sensation of feeling that there were 60 storeys of building collapsing around and on top of me.

For that is what happens in this movie. It's about two officers of the Port Authority Police Department -- a group of people who I thought at the time were thoroughly overlooked in all the brouhaha about the brave fire fighters -- who were trapped in the rubble but were rescued and survived. Not much of a story in that, as many critics have commented.

How can you write a movie that stays true to the circumstances and the people it is honoring, when the audience already knows the outcome? In his promotion of the movie, Nicholas Cage has been playing up the mystical qualities of the movie, and I confess that after the second sighting of Jesus with some bottled water in hand I had to make a beeline to the restroom.

Which reminded me I hadn't eaten so I popped across the street, got some KFC, ate it at a sidewalk table, then went back to the movie, arriving just as the first PAPD officer was being rescued. To be honest, it was as much the GI-Joe caricature of a US Marine about to singlehandedly do something heroic that drove me from the theatre as the effects of the copious bottled water I'd been drinking on another stinking hot day.

All of which sounds mighty disrespectful of the people Stone is honoring with this film, yet at the end -- when the credits roll and the film's dedication to "all those who fought, died or were wounded on that day" is followed by a listing of the fallen men of the PAPD -- I felt compelled to salute them.

They knew nothing about what was going to happen, and to get the most from the film you need to get your head in a space where you don't know what's going to happen either, which calls for a kind of resumption of innocence.

At this early stage of the movie, the script is good at helping you think -- along with the PAPD -- that the biggest problem is the fire and the lack of plan to deal with evacuating fifty or sixty thousand people. Then the newsreel clips of people all around the world watching in stunned horror as the NY morning unfolds bring you back to the intensity of your own feelings at that time.

Principal among those feelings, the sensation that the world was standing with the United States in that moment. Stone acknowledges that by emphasising in Cage's recital of the Lord's Prayer as he lies trapped, the words "Forgive us our trespasses and those who trespass against us." But it's the Connecticut-based ex-marine GI Joe on his cellphone as he strides over the rubble saying, "No, I'm not coming in today. They're gonna need some good men out there to avenge this," who almost gets the last word.


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