Controversy is a funny thing in Hollywood. Sometimes it can bring a whole lot of money to a film and sometimes it can hamper any success that film is set to have. The trick is finding that balance somewhere in between, so that the film is praised for what it is and also makes enough money for the producers to call it a success. Any subject in or around 9/11 certainly falls right in-line with this notion, but simply forgetting is not answer. Do that and you punish the heroes from that day, so instead, why not take pride in stories like the one in “World Trade Center,” for it displays the true essence of what makes our country so great.
The story here, which many people still don’t realize, revolves solely around the rescue of two brave Port Authority police officers, who became trapped under the World Trade Center rubble during the 9/11 attacks. It was a typical morning for John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and William J. Jimeno (Michael Pena), two Port Authority police officers assigned to lower Manhattan, but as the early morning dew started to fade, their lives, as well as the entire country’s, were about to change in one unimaginable way. Shortly after heading off to their morning assignments, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center Tower 1, creating a buzz like no other and one certainly none of these Port Authority officers and Sgt. McLoughlin have seen in some time, if at all.
After randomly selecting a team of seven to eight officers, McLoughlin and co. head down to see what was going on. However, right before they get to the site they get word of as second plane crashing into Tower 2, making this trip one they would never forget. The plan once on site, naturally, would be to go in and attempt to rescue as many people as possible and for that, he called on volunteers. Out of the group, only a handful stepped forward, but not too soon after they were inside, the building collapsed leaving them buried underneath a pile of very heavy rubble. After sustaining a second collapse, the only two survivors left were Sgt. McLoughlin and Jimeno, who somehow manage to talk and keep each other alive long enough to be rescued in the most unlikely of ways, considering the mess left behind from the fall of the Twin Towers.
I think when you’re dealing with true real-to-life stories, choosing the appropriate actor can be a daunting, but very rewarding task. With that said, director Oliver Stone did well here with Nicolas Cage, as he seemed to fit right into his role as Sgt. McLoughlin. And Cage didn’t overpower anyone else, given most of everyone he was working with was relatively unknown with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal and maybe Maria Bello, who each made an impact when given the opportunity. Everyone else fell into their roles without issue given the extreme emotion and intense nature of the story. Nevertheless, it takes a cast that is willing to set aside their own thoughts and beliefs and just do it for the people, or heroes in this case, and I think there’s no doubt that’s what happened here.
Despite what has been written since 2001 about 9/11 and the numerous films on around the tragic day, I still feel “World Trade Center” is a forgotten story. Maybe it was because Oliver Stone was the man behind the camera as some felt he would bring his patented agenda to this story, which is ludicrous to me. Sure, the guy has had his way in Hollywood on controversial topics, but I think his motives have always been in the right place. And with this film, he certainly was careful and respectful to the families involved or impacted that horrific day, despite all the negative reports and slack he received during and after the shoot. Fact is, Stone did a good job here with some of the most intense and emotional scenes you’ll ever see in such a small frame. And he did this by keeping just the right balance of patriotism and heartache, never going over the top with anything, which is tough to do given the subject matter. Using only real footage from 9/11, cut with flashbacks and the current shots, he was able to mold everything together perfectly and respectfully, showing he does have some class behind that rough exterior.
No matter where you stand on the whole 9/11 subject, I think the one thing that gets lost a lot are the stories like the one in “World Trade Center,” which can be found on DVD at your local retail outlet or online at Netflix.com. And that’s a shame, considering its stories like these that make our country what it is and I truly believe that’s all Oliver Stone wanted to do with this film, which is a whole lot better than you might expect.