But that didn't happen.
Somewhere along the way Stone must have made a complete turnaround in the way he makes movies because World Trade Center was the most apolitical movies I have seen in a very long time and even made me leave the movie theater proud to be an American. More importantly, I was also proud to be a human being.
After seeing the emotional rollercoaster ride that the movie Flight 93 took moviegoers on just a few months ago, I was fully expecting to have a similar reaction to WTC. But while there were certainly some intense moments, especially as you watched the story unfold for those two very brave Port Authority police officers who were the focal point of the movie, this film had a solemn tone that I believe was very well done by Stone.
With a movie about a recent historical event like the attacks on the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, everyone already knows the story, the severity of the damage that was done, the horror and mayhem that took place on that terrible Tuesday just five years ago. What we did not know before this movie, though, is what it was like to be inside the building when it collapsed in a pile of rubble when details about what was actually happening were still very sketchy, how the families of those involved were coping with the uncertainty about their loved ones, and who was leading the charge in trying to search out and rescue the people trapped and running out of time.
Nicolas Cage gives an awe-inspiring performance as John McLoughlin, a stoic yet determined man who went to work early that morning just like he had done for nearly two decades. Yet when he was faced with certain tragedy that would take the lives of most of his men, he was the one who gave the quick and prudent advice to run for the elevator shaft as the first tower was falling. That is what ultimately saved him and his young partner Will Jimeno (Michael Pena).
The eerie scenes below the surface of what would be known as Ground Zero were as haunting and terrifying as life could possibly be. In fact, at one point in the movie, the characters described what they were going through as Hell on Earth. Your could feel their pain and winced with them every time the fallen building would begin to rain down on top of them some more, including burning embers that literally scorched their skin. Had I not already known they would be rescued, then I probably wouldn't have made it through the movie without an oxygen mask.
I particularly enjoyed the way Stone incorporated the devout faith of the Christian Marine who said he felt a calling to help in any way that he could after the attacks. Traveling only in his camoflague gear and light equipment, this was the man God had sent to be an angel for McLoughlin and Jimeno because he ultimately found them right at the time death was knocking at their door. This Marine went on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq defending America against terrorism.
Another interesting part of the film was the way they showed how important family was to the two men trapped beneath the rubble. The mental and emotional anguish these women and their children went through was simply unimaginable. In the end, though, McLoughlin credited his wife for helping him get through his living nightmare and survive to this day. Seeing a positive family relationship on the big screen is a refreshing change from what we usually see in Hollywood.
If you think you know everything about what happened on 9/11 based on the documentaries you have seen about it, then you really need to go see WTC. Stone expects you to know about the planes crashing into the buildings, the bodies falling so hard from the top floors where people jumped that you hear a shotgun thud when they hit the ground, the mass confusion and doomsday feeling that so many people had that day. But his story shares so much more that you may not have even realized.
I would be very surprised if this movie was not nominated and probably win the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture Of The Year. Cage should also get a nod for Best Actor. And for Stone, whose reputation has been well-earned because of his previous films, he should be recognized and congratulated for presenting as tasteful a 9/11 movie as he could possibly make. Very well done!
While political pundits will continue to argue about who is to blame for the attacks on America on 9/11 and whether the war on terrorism that began soon thereafter has been successful or not, that doesn't change what happened on that day one bit. We will forever remember September 11, 2001 as the most important turning point in the history of the United States of America and the world. Stone has made sure that moment in history is never forgotten.