Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal

"The world saw evil that day. Two men saw something else."

Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

September 11, 2001

It was my birthday so even if I was battling severe stomach cramps after days of feeling really lousy due to a stomach flu - I went out to keep a tradition going. The fact that I watch a Nicholas Cage movie on my birthday. That is of course if there is one showing at the theaters on October 19. I recall fondly watching "Windtalkers", "Matchstick Men" and "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" during my previous birthdays. So I was in luck that "World Trade Center" opened on the eve of my special day.

Now on to the film. It is a bit difficult to write a review of a film that chronicles the event of something as horrifying as the 9/11 tragedy. Especially without sounding like as a cynical callous person when the film doesn't go down favorably with my own interpretation of what a film about that event should be all about. For me it lacked the poignancy factor, the one aspect that would pull at your heartstrings, the one that would trigger your tear ducts to fall down your cheeks.

Ok fair warning, I am going to mention some spoilers which I hate to do but it is inevitable as I need to emphasize some points. The first 45 minutes of the film was pretty intense. Oliver Stone was able to capture the raw essence of that fateful day as it first unfolded. The shadow of the plane against the building as it is about to crash against the World Trade center is a very powerful image that is hauntingly eerie. Then the total chaotic scenes of debris falling all over the streets of New York as people scrambled out of the way trying to flee from the two Towers was very captivating. It felt like Oliver Stone was actually there on that unfortunate day rolling his cameras to capture the disaster. But after the Towers actually collapses on the two main characters, the film becomes dull. We are shown scenes of flashbacks of happier times with their families interspersed with the two cops prepping each other up while trapped inside the rubble as well as the rescue efforts to find any survivors. I have no problem with the execution of these scenes, they were coherent and well paced. The flashbacks are necessary, I have to admit that.

But my main issue is how cheesy and corny some of the scenes were. Throwing in a lone rogue Marine to act as some hero, making him as some sort of Messiah who avenges the attacks by re-enlisting in the Marine Corps to fight in Iraq is like a propaganda for the US Military. Showing scenes of a blurry Jesus Christ with a mineral bottle as some way to depict the act of going towards the light for the hallucinating cops is just plain tacky. I understand that it is a movie about two cops, two persons who survived to tell their stories and that they were closely collaborating with Oliver Stone himself during the making of the film but somehow it came across as being just about the two of them. How about the other lives that were lost in that tragedy? The film merely brushed on the subject by focusing on a wall lined up with pictures of the missing people who died on that day. He also didn't focus enough on the valiant efforts of the rescuers, Instead it came across as the Marine dude was the only soul brave enough to go through the rumble at night. Even though we know for a fact that the rescue teams never stopped even to the detriment of their health

Acting wise, Michael Pena was pretty convincing. He even outshined Nicholas Cage. It is understandable though that Nicholas Cage couldn't do much given the fact that it was mostly his head that was visible under all that rubble. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the frantic wives of the two cops wavered between overacting as in hysterical outbursts to underacting with scenes done with subdued fluency.

Overall, this film didn't seem like an Oliver Stone film. He didn't come up with some conspiracy theory nor did he aim to explain who were truly responsible for those barbaric acts. No grandstanding posturing involved at all. He simply wanted to tell the story of two ordinary cops who experienced such a daunting upheaval in their lives, so it worked in that aspect with brilliant accuracy.

But with a movie entitled "World Trade Center" I guess I expected a lot more to be revealed and a lot more dramatics to highlight such a tragic event. But maybe we are not really ready to see that on the silver screen. The wound is still a bit raw. It has only been 5 years. We still need a few more years to truly heal yet at the same time, I don't think we should ever forget how the whole world changed since that fateful day - September 11, 2001.

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