"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stone's World Trade Center Movie

World Trade Center, Oliver Stone's film about the 9/11 attacks, is really about just one aspect of the events of that day. As has been widely reported, World Trade Center tells the story of two New York City Port Authority policeman who went into one of the Twin Towers, as part of a team of five, and were buried in rubble when the first tower collapsed. They survived the subsequent collapses of two other buildings in the seven-building WTC complex, and were rescued after enduring a long time pinned under the heavy debris while gravely injured. The rescue was the result of heroic and courageous efforts by many people whose desire to help others overcame their personal fears and self-interest. That, of course, is exactly what the two policeman and their comrades had done as well by going into that obviously dangerous disaster site.

The film is very skillfully made and is quite moving at times. It is probably best described as a disaster movie of very high quality.

It could have been more. The film resolutely avoids dwelling on the deeper causes of the disaster, downplaying the people behind the 9/11 attacks and the fact that they deliberately did this to innocent strangers. The film shows with apparent sympathy a Marine who decides to go to war against the perpetrators of the atrocity, and there are other occasional, fleeting references to the fact that the collapse of the Twin Towers was the result of a deliberate act of mass murder, but director Stone and screenwriter Andrea Berloff keep the focus firmly on the men in the rubble, their loved ones, and their rescuers. That keeps the film on the positive side of things, showing how good people live their lives and give of themselves to serve others. And to concentrate on that story is certainly the filmmakers' prerogative.

In addition, the film includes a large amount of Christian imagery and actions that add weight and context to the events of the story. That is all to the good.

However, the full story of 9/11 also involves the other side of things, a story of people who want the world to be their way regardless of what it takes to force it into their intolerant, hateful mold, who resent others' success and happiness, who actively work to hurt innocent people and are willing to give their lives in order to bring death to those they hate. That is the other side of the 9/11 story, and it is in fact what set in motion the events that brought out the love, hope, faith, and heroism of the people at the center of Stone's story. It is the side of things that makes the foreground events so much more meaningful. We bring that story to the theater ourselves, but World Trade Center would have been much more than a highly impressive disaster film if Stone and Berloff had been willing to bring out that contrast themselves.

From Karnick on Culture.

3 comments:

Michael Simpson said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I wonder if you're quite being fair to Stone. (Who would've thought I would ever write THAT sentence?) What seems to make this different than your typical disaster movie is that we all know the context and it's not just some freak accident or disaster. We all know - and all the viewers will know - that it was an attack and that, it seems to me, makes it quite different than the Poseidon or Hotel.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Or it can be an attempt to remove all context from the heinous attack that may have precipitated WWIII (or IV, depending on who's doing the sabermetrics).

"People taking care of each other, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do," sez leading man Cage, or so the ads and internet tell me.

Still, I'll take Ollie Stone following his heart instead of his diseased head any ol' time, even if its a muddled We Are the World thing. It can't be denied that he wields the power of myth, the greatest of all artistic gifts---Platoon, JFK, and screenwriter for Scarface, the latter of which has destroyed so many lives, particularly African-American ones.

Art, especially as myth and poetry, is quite dangerous, which is why Plato wanted to ban it.

Devang said...

I can't say I was disappointed, if there was anything missing it was the collective sense of pain everyone else felt. I can see why the directors ommited conveying it, among other things. The religions references were plainly of a comedic nature... I laughed.

It's my impression that any movie which truly tries to bring out the contrast between good and evil humans, just ends up humanizing the evil ones. That would be those pesky terrorists. It seems like nothing these days is complete without relating islamo-fascism to it, so perhaps some good ol' demonizing might have been good in the movie...