Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Timely Reminder

If you see only one movie this summer, make sure it's "World Trade Center."

Seeing this movie took some internal debate for me. Not because of the subject matter; in fact, I feel that September 11, 2001, is the most neglected dramatic story of all time in Hollywood. No, I hesitated because it is an Oliver Stone movie.

Oliver Stone movies make me sick--literally. I saw "Platoon" in the movies; it gave me a headache. I had a similar physical reaction to "JFK." I saw the video of "Nixon," which was forgettable, and I ignored the rest of Stone's movies as one does a food that produces an allergic reaction. To me, it has always seemed that Stone amplifies all that is wrong, negative, sad, or seamy in our culture.

I go to the movies in the hopes of feeling uplifted, not to become depressed or ashamed. So I made the decision to see this film with no small amount of trepidation. What a powerful surprise I received.

Stone leaves his customary ax-grinding out of this gripping true-life story of two surviving rescue workers. The graphic, raw details of that terrible day, which have become so familiar, are skillfully understated. The impact of the planes is not shown, yet the horror of those moments is palpable on the screen. The collapse of the tower also is not depicted, except from the internal perspective of the Port Authority policemen who sprint for the elevator shaft as the building implodes around them.

At that point, the film enters the netherworld of Dante's "Inferno." The viewer is entombed in a dark, smoky pit of hell, along with the badly wounded survivors. The stark scenes depicting the terrors suffered by officers McLoughlin and Jimeno as they become increasingly encased in debris are examples of dramatic film-making at its best.

The unrelenting tension of the two men's plight is balanced by interwoven scenes of their families' reactions, memories, and anguish. The story line of the Marine who comes to the rescue of the trapped heroes also serves to relieve the intensity. Acting is first rate throughout the film.

There is a shivery sense of kismet in this movie's debut within a day of the foiled plot by Islamo-fascists to explode multiple airplanes in flight. It is a timely reminder that we are not safe from those who are determined to murder us. It underscores the human pain and agony that are the fruits of such evil.

I can't say I've been converted to an Oliver Stone fan. But he deserves a truckload of credit for giving us a 9/11 movie that captures the fear, danger, horror, evil, and the responsive good of that unforgettable day. Even more remarkable is that he does so with a full measure of respect for 9/11's victims and heroes. That's a startling accomplishment, and it's one well worth seeing.