Oliver Stone Shines on 'World Trade Center'
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
Ready for a shocker?
Oliver Stone has made a movie that is sure to please cops, fire fighters, red-staters, the military, and even the GOP.
Yes, you read the name correctly. It's that Oliver Stone.
I recently had the chance to screen Stone's latest film "World Trade Center."
The movie I saw was not a final cut; it was a high-definition video version with a temporary score. Stone had prepared a written statement, which was read to the audience prior to the screening and explained the unfinished state of the preview cut.
Notwithstanding, what came through on the screen was a tender rendering of a story that is rich with timeless themes.
From the opening sequence to the end of the film, one can discern that Stone used painstaking care to tell the WTC story without embellishing it with a political agenda.
Some on the left will be disappointed to find that Stone eschews the customary Hollywood conservative bashing ritual. Instead, through his main characters, he elevates and celebrates the time-honored traditions of faith, love of family, and uninhibited masculine valor.
"World Trade Center" tells the true story of Sgt. John McLoughlin (played by Nicolas Cage of "National Treasure" fame) and William J. Jimeno (played by Michael Pena of "Crash"). The two are New York Port Authority police officers who were part of the first responders to place their lives on the line when the WTC was attacked on 9/11.
McLoughlin and Jimeno were among those who attempted to evacuate tower 2. They were subsequently trapped beneath the rubble when the towers collapsed.
Only 20 people were rescued from the wreckage in the disaster. Miraculously, McLoughlin and Jimeno were numbers 18 and 19.
The two trapped officers survived the ordeal by talking to each other about their wives, kids, and life in law enforcement.
Andrea Berloff's script provides a powerful subplot with the tale of Dave Karnes (played by Michael Shannon, "8 Mile"), a deeply religious retired Marine who in a spiritual calling feels compelled to put on his uniform once again, head out to Ground Zero and assist in finding survivors.
You won't find the cynicism of "Wall Street" or political content of "Born on the Fourth of July" in this film, but you will see some of the grit of "Platoon."
While "World Trade Center" recounts one of the many occurrences that took place on that mournful 9/11 day, it moves beyond the infamous and calamitous and explores the supernal courage and virtue displayed by ordinary Americans who, when circumstances required, were able to soar to extraordinary heights.
Stone handles his task of cinematically relaying this true story with the kind of integrity one expects from a great journalist and the kind of artistry one appreciates from a veteran filmmaker.
Stone explained to film scholar Emanuel Levy the political restraint he exercised in making the movie: "These men were not concerned with politics. Although my politics and their politics are different, that didn't matter. We all got along. I can make a movie about them and their experiences, because they went through something that I can understand. Politics does not enter into it. The movie is about courage and survival."
"World Trade Center" is set for release on Aug. 9.
More than a mere chronicle of the nation's attack, the film is a homage to the courage and selflessness that were displayed amidst tragedy.
Summer is the season for blockbusters that feature superheroes; the flights of fancy that include characters who are able to perform extraordinary feats.
"World Trade Center" is about real-life superheroes. And Stone may have just performed the super-cinematic feat of his career.
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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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