Director Oliver Stone takes a narrow look at 9/11 through the real experiences of John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), Port Authority officers who were rescued from under the World Trade Center rubble. The cast includes Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jay Hernandez.
Big questions: Will more people see this than "United 93"? Is it appropriate to tell such a limited story and use recognizable actors?
Skip it: The subject, of course, disturbs you no matter what, though the only powerful images come from actual news footage. But by looking on the bright side of disaster without any sense of shock or urgency, "World Trade Center" disrespectfully turns away from the dead and those who mourn them and makes survivors and their families look like run-of-the-mill movie characters. It is not too soon for films about 9/11, but it is never the right time to diminish the weight of tragedy in order to make it easier to swallow.
Catch it: If you are one of the dozen or so people portrayed in the movie. Because the movie talks about heroism, camaraderie and grief but hardly shows any, "World Trade Center" is not for or about anyone else.
Bottom line: Aside from putting the date onscreen at the beginning, a few passing mentions of "those bastards" (which we can only assume are the terrorists), and a concluding note stating how many people died in the attacks (approximately 3,000), "World Trade Center" so distances itself from the gravity and horror of 9/11 that it eventually feels like the story of two men rescued from the bottom of a well. And as Cage screams, "Run!!!"; Pena sees Jesus and moves towards the light; a cute little girl runs towards the camera; and a twinkling score cues every extra-emotional line, "World Trade Center" becomes not a memorial but a work of cheap manipulation that does the unthinkable -- it sucks the reality out of real life.
Bonus: There has already been a worthwhile, challenging and respectful movie made about 9/11. It is "United 93."
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'World Trade Center'
Directed by Oliver Stone; screenplay by Andrea Berloff; cinematography by Seamus McGarvey; edited by David Brenner and Julie Monroe; production design by Jan Roelfs; music by Craig Armstrong; produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Moritz Borman and Debra Hill. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Wednesday. Running time: 2:05. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language).
John McLoughlin - Nicolas Cage
Will Jimeno - Michael Pena
Allison Jimeno - Maggie Gyllenhaal
Donna McLoughlin - Maria Bello
Dominick Pezzulo - Jay Hernandez
Dave Karnes - Michael ShannonCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times