A very well made film that doesn't get polarized at all by politics.
I wish this DVD had come with some hard copy material about the subjects portrayed in this movie, as well as director Oliver Stone.
Oliver Stone's World Trade Center is a well told tale about the strength of the human spirit, and humanities innate desire to do that which is right. The film focuses on September 11, 2001, with it's main eye being on real life survivors John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena). These two men were trapped underneath the rubble of the Twin Towers in a desperate fight to survive. They must band together even though they can't move. There only comfort was the sound of each other's voice to keep them alive. The story moves from these men to the effect this had on their families, as they spent the majority of the day not knowing if their loved ones were alive or dead. We also get to see the tale of a Marine who feels compelled to help out at Ground Zero, as well as the difficult work of people like Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff) who was one of the first responders.
This movie doesn't work on the viewer so much as it tries it's best to faithfully tell the story of one of the most tragic events in our Nation's history. No politics here, World Trade Center is truly a film to be seen, admired, and experienced.
There is a commentary with Oliver Stone as well as a separate one with real life survivor Will Jimeno, rescuers Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee. I only listened to the Oliver Stone track because I didn't have time to listen to both. Also, I tend to shy away from commentaries that have a bunch of people talking at the same time. Stone opens this up by saying his didn't expect to make another film for Paramount (apparently, his experience making Conan the Barbarian there didn't go that well), that directing is hard because he likes to be by himself, and he even points out what shots were cheated in Los Angeles for New York. He always seems so put out by doing these commentary tracks, yet he always does them so something tells me that he does enjoy the process. Regardless of that, this was very interesting to listen to.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Nine deleted scenes comprise this section and one can also listen to them with Oliver Stone talking. I chose to listen to these that way mainly because I wanted to hear why certain portions of the film had been taken out. Apparently, it was either for time purposes, or Stone realized that he didn't need the excised section. These are of the exact same quality as the film, so in a way it's sort of like we get an extended cut (though not pieced together) on this DVD.
They have broken this "Making Of" into 3 parts. They are "Committing to the Story," "Shooting in New York and L.A.," and "Closing Wounds." This chronicles how Oliver Stone came to this story, why he wanted to tell it, the logistics of the production, and how Oliver Stone hoped that this film would open up people's perspective about September 11, 2001. These are all highly in-depth and one thought I had while watching them, was that I couldn't imagine how Oliver Stone was able to tell a story amidst the chaotic directorial situation of his own making.
Put together in two parts ("Rescue" and "Recovery") we get a really well put together look at the real life Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin. We get to find out about their recovery process, the surgeries they had to endure, and everything else that happened to these guys post 9/11. As I was watching these it hit me that they could have made a whole other movie just on what these guys had to go through to get better. Though they will never be the same, I think these documentary films show how determination can really get many people through even the most hellish circumstances.
Building Ground Zero
Anybody interested in the technological aspect of this movie will certainly want to check this out. We hear from the production designers and art directors on the film, as they explain how New York City was recreated on the big screen. Even though this movie is contained to a few locations for most of the story, they really did a good job of showing the Twin Towers before the attack. We get to see how the previsualization process is done, and that everything is created in the computer before it gets built in a living, breathing physical environment. It is amazing that this movie is able to mix virtual and practical effects so seamlessly.
Oliver Stone's New York and Oliver Stone Q&A
I decided to review these together because they are both interviews with the man who made this film. Oliver Stones New York is a very candid piece where he talks about the city, his life there, and he walks around pointing out various aspects of the architecture. We usually don't get this kind of up and close and personal access to a director, but Oliver Stone lays it all on the line in this interesting expose. Taking place as part of BAFTA's David Lean Lecture Series the Oliver Stone Q&A covers a lot of the ground that his commentary goes over. What most struck me was how Stone wanted to examine the events of 9/11 without any politics behind them.
This film is presented in widescreen format. My only fear when I heard that Oliver Stone was going to be doing this film, is that it might get lost in a bunch of imagery. While there is certain imagery employed, Stone used a very steady hand so that it didn't beat the viewer over the head. The look of this film on DVD is awesome. The compression process has made this film look really pristine, yet I don't think it overglossed the city at all. Also, even the CGI aspects look awesome and I really feel that what transpired that day was put across as respectfully as possible.
Dolby Digital. I should have watched this movie in the theater or at least somewhere that I could have utilized surround sound. Hearing the soundtrack on my TV sounded good, but this is a movie that really pulls you into the story. From the opening frames and the audio of New York's hustle and bustle, this is honestly a movie that functions equally well as a visual and audio experience. I just wish I had been able to hear things on a better system, because this is one of those films that's particularly jarring in it's use of audio.
The one sheet of the two officers between the Twin Towers (that was used during the theatrical release) is again used here on this front cover. The back uses a shot of New York (pre 9/11) as it's background, with a description of the film, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and some technical specs laid out around it. Both of the discs are stored in one amaray case, each occupying one side of it. There is nothing too amazing about this packaging, but I don't think that there needs to be.
When I first heard that Oliver Stone was making this movie, I felt that this was his play nice film. It seemed that after the disastrous Alexander, he had no choice but to do a filmic act of contrition. However, when you realize that this is a man who did serve his country in Vietnam, who is very intelligent, and who can certainly make a film in any genre, I think it becomes apparent that this movie spoke to him. I think Oliver Stone does love his country. I think he does his best to express that in his films. It seems that maybe he feels let down. That this Nation which has so much promise, oftentimes gets upended by the very people who are supposed to be looking out for it's best interests.
The beauty of World Trade Center is that Stone didn't need to create an artificial world for this to happen. He simply presented what emerged when our Nation was forced to come together to heal itself.
World Trade Center was released August 9, 2006.