Comments on the supplemental material on this edition have been ported over from Ryan Erb’s excellent (and recent) review of the HD DVD, which also can be enjoyed on this site.Â Now onto this review…
Remember when it was announced that far-left conspiracy theorist (and resident Castro admirer) Oliver Stone would be making a film about the September 11 attacks? Of course you do. In fact, the collective pucker of the nation tightened in horror and trepidation when the notion was first thrown around, and later grew in suspicion as the film’s realization became closer and closer.
And after the enormous critical success of United 93, when World Trade Center came out, it wasn’t so bad after all. In fact there was very little preaching by Stone in the film. As Jim Emerson pointed out in his review, the only thing that was close to it were the shots of people around the world, huddled in front of their TV sets or in town squares, some visibly stunned by the news. It was more a testament to how we felt at that moment, not to mention the goodwill that has been virtually blown in the years since.
Anyway, back to the film, which recounts the stories of Port Authority officers John McLaughlin (Nicolas Cage, Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena, Crash), two men among hundreds of city officers who went to the towers to try and help rescue the people trapped when the planes hit. McLaughlin, Jimeno and several other PAPD officers were on the concourse, walking towards Tower 2 when it fell, trapping them and their partners for what seemed like an eternity. Of the almost 2,800 people that died in the WTC attacks, John and Will were numbers 18 and 19 of the 20 who survived both towers coming down on them.
If there was one, maybe two things, that hinder this film from being great, it’s the performances of the two leads themselves. Granted, they are supposed to be under tons of concrete and metal, but it’s that confinement that leads us to see the loved ones of John and Will as they try to figure out what to do and how to plan, in case they lose their husbands. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Stranger Than Fiction) plays Allison Jimeno quite well, while Maria Bello (A History of Violence) is good too, but she wears some sort of contact lens to portray an accurate eye color, but it was so off that it became distracting. These are minor blips on the radar though, as World Trade Center remains a solid tribute to those who lost their lives in an attempt to protect others in America’s darkest day.
Technically, I may be a little bit spoiled, as I saw this film on HD DVD first before seeing the SD version. But as it stands, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track isn’t too shabby. The floors of the building pancaking on top of each other is replicated well, there’s some surround activity and the dialogue is pretty clear.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation of World Trade Center is pretty sharp, most of what you’re going to see are a lock of blacks after the first half hour or so, but things look good.
Paramount has given us an extra disc chock full of special features. All are worth checking out as they range from interviews with survivors too in depth making of features. As an added bonus most features are presented in HD, a nice touch that most studios should follow.
- The Making of World Trade Center – An interesting behind scenes look at the making of World Trade Center. This includes interviews with Nicholas Cage, Oliver Stone and various other cast and crew.
- Common Sacrifice: In Depth Interview with Survivors and Rescuers – This is a more in depth interview with the actual survivors and rescuers of the World Trade Center. This hour long feature is worth checking out as I found it to be very interesting and moving.
- Building Ground Zero – This feature shows the detailed process of making Ground Zero. I was amazed how much detail was needed when creating the ruins of the Trade Center.
- Visual Special Effects – A look at the visual effects and sets used to create the Trade Centers. It is good to see the amount of detail that was used inside the buildings, down to store placement inside the buildings.
- Oliver Stone’s New York – Oliver Stone talks about his experiences growing up in New York. We are taken on location as Stone talks about various child hood experiences including his early family life.
- Q&A with Oliver Stone – An interview with Oliver Stone consisting of various questions, including what he wanted to achieve when making this film.
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
All the talk about it being “too soon”, in the four months between the theatrical releases of United 93 and World Trade Center has debunked that viewpoint by now, as both films are compelling stories about real-life events that will prove to be landmarks in American history, good or bad. The performances are solid if unspectacular, it’s the story that endures, and this story is powerful, regardless of ideological position. A definitite addition to your film library.