Stone's Tale of Two Towers
Taking on making a movie about any part of 9/11 would never be an easy task and for braving the emotional subject director Oliver Stone deserves much applause. But for some reason the finished movie "World Trade Center" doesn't deliver what I expected almost feeling restrained in order not to offend anyone. On one level it works giving us a different perspective on that day as we follow two policemen trapped in one of the towers, delving into how it not only felt for them but also their family. But it at times feels unsure of what it wants to be, going from almost being an action drama into this more personal movie. And because of this shift in style it seems a little strange leading the audience to think one thing but then getting something else.
Following the first attack on the World Trade Centre, the Port Authority Police Department send in a team on a rescue mission. Lead by John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage - National Treasure) they are busy getting supplies from the concourse when the tower collapses leaving McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Michael PeÃ±a - Million Dollar Baby) buried deep beneath the rubble, pinned down with little hope of surviving. As they try to keep each other going their families learn that their husbands have been caught in the terrorist attacks and their lives are thrown into turmoil through the uncertainty.
So the thing is that the angle which director Oliver Stone takes, this exploration of two policemen trapped beneath a crumbling tower and the effect it has on their family is a good one. It brings to life the individual drama of that day the policemen not knowing if they will survive, their wives and families lives suddenly thrown into turmoil by not knowing if their partners are alive or not. It makes it a very sensitive, emotional look at the day which makes you think and be thankful. And what is particularly good is that whilst Stone focuses on the men and their wives there are no big cinematic moments, no sudden heroics or hysterics but just natural dynamics.
All of which is exceptionally good but in many ways is spoilt by what goes on before, not the lead up to the attack but the moments in-between the attack and the men getting trapped. For some reason Stone directs this part like an action movie with John McLoughlin leading his men into the tower on their rescue mission. We get dialogue which seems over the top, over indulgent use of slow motion and other cinematic tricks to heighten the drama. But it feels wrong, it makes it feel like a cheesy action movie and that doesn't blend with the more restrained movie which follows. It makes you think that you are going to get one sort of movie only to get something completely different.
Unfortunately this opening action styling has knock on effect on the performances, most notably that of Nicolas Cage as John McLoughlin. When the movie focuses on him and Will Jimeno trapped Cage seems stuck in action mode, over doing the grimacing as he delivers dialogue which should sound alright but ends up bordering on corny because of the over the top delivery. Michael Pena is more impressive as Jimeno and really delivers the emotion of his character without resorting to over the top reactions. The same can be said of Maria Bello as Donna McLoughlin and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Allison Jimeno they both deliver the emotion of worried wives perfectly.
What this all boils down to is that "World Trade Center" is a good movie, and the personal angle of the storyline is well worked. But unfortunately the action sequences prior to the collapse of the towers ends up spoiling what otherwise is a restrained and emotional drama. Never the less you have to give Oliver Stone credit for delivering the personal and emotional side of 9/11 which makes us realise how hard a day it was for those who were trapped but also their families.