Saturday, August 12, 2006

World Trade Center: The TigerHawk review 

Mrs. TigerHawk and I saw Oliver Stone's World Trade Center at the Princeton Garden theater on Nassau Street this evening. We thought it was a perfectly decent disaster movie. Unfortunately, that's all it was.

Much has been made of the point that Oliver Stone did not have the, er, stones to infuse this film with the usual conspiracy theories that have become something of a trademark for him. Instead, he diminished a history-altering event into a "rescue movie" that was no more instructive than The Poseidon Adventure.

World Trade Center is essentially the survival story of two actual Port Authority police officers who were trapped in the rubble between the collapse of the towers and the morning of September 12, when they were pried out. The movie cuts between the families who do not know the fate of the cops, the men themselves buried under debris, talking to each other to stay alive, and their dreams, memories and hallucinations. Other scenes -- rescuers, random Americans, archival media reports -- provide context, but none are really necessary to Stone's telling of the story.

World Trade Center does not, except in a passing reference, reflect upon those who died. It does not look at the lives of the families who, in the words of my wife, "only learned what happened after testing the DNA of some chunk of a person." It does not identify more than a couple of the actual heroes, dead or alive, who populated that day. The national rage was collapsed into one cut to a cop at a lunch counter in Sheboygan, who grimly looks at the television and says "bastards" (we see him less than a day later serving brats outside the World Trade Center -- apparently, he managed to get to New York in under 24 hours without benefit of an airplane). The "world reaction" involved French people looking shocked and Iran's president Mohamed Khatami offering his condolences. Suffice it to say that Stone offered no vision of Palestinians dancing in the streets. The movie is so apolitical that its narrative does not even need for al Qaeda to have been behind the collapse of the towers. An earthquake would have worked just as well.

A true story, yes, but a small one. Somebody needs to try again.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 13, 12:17:00 AM:

Thanks for the review. I had a strong gut feeling on the same line. I won't see it. I was there in Manhatten that day.

I think I'll watch "Apollo 13"
"Houston we have a problem"

Or maybe "Gladiator" were Russell Crowe throws a phone at Caesar and gets probation and sued.  

By Blogger Fire, at Sun Aug 13, 09:30:00 AM:

Or maybe "Gladiator" were Russell Crowe throws a phone at Caesar and gets probation and sued.


Yeah, I'm glad you spent the money to go see it TH, I have heard nothing but bad reviews from people I know & work with.

Thanks for your review.  

By Blogger Jeremiah, at Sun Aug 13, 11:05:00 AM:

I've heard much made about the absence in this film of Oliver Stone's reliable prior movie-making tendencies: outright left wing bias and mixing fact with fiction in what some consider to be a morally equivalent way.

It strikes me from this review, the Stone has once again played with the truth. By making a film about something so momentous as 9/11 and omitting so much of the larger story, one must assume that he is consciously or unconsciously trivializing that larger story.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Aug 13, 12:26:00 PM:

Stone pissed in my holy water long ago. The only way I'll watch any of his stuff now is if I find a VHS tape or DVD in a dumpster and get it for free.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 13, 04:59:00 PM:

I think it is much too soon after the event, and I don't think an entertainment style film is appropriate.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Sun Aug 13, 10:59:00 PM:

I thought it was Stone's best work by a good margin.

TH, didn't you think the Marine Corps staff sgt. was a key character? He leaves his office in CT, goes to church, puts on his fatigues and heads to ground zero. Once there, he partners with another Marine (with the Con-Ed hard hat) and finds the Port Authority police who are buried alive. Depicting that sequence is as gung ho as Stone will ever get.  

By Blogger demosophist, at Mon Aug 14, 09:41:00 AM:


OK, now I'm intrigued. I was in the same theater at the same time, and there couldn't have been more than 25 people there. Funny to think you were one of them. There was a guy with a beard in front of and to the right of me. (He was in the first row and I was in the second, in the upper section. Everyone was sitting in the upper section.) Was that you?

It was an OK movie, but a little incoherent. And, of course, as you say there was no real thesis relating to the fundamental change that we went through on that day. Jeffrey Imm on the Counterterrorism Blog has some thoughts on the effects of these 9-11 films. He has a point. From Here to Eternity wasn't produced until 1953, 12 years after the event. These movies aren't in the same category, because a sufficient amount of time hasn't elapsed to place them in historical context.

And, it's a political context, just as Pearl Harbor was. It's part of the 9/10 mindset to depoliticize it.  

By Blogger demosophist, at Mon Aug 14, 09:47:00 AM:

Come to think of it, I might have been there on Friday night. I walked down to Heagie Haven to get my dose of microbes for the evening, and then saw the movie.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Aug 14, 09:49:00 AM:

I was sitting in the front row of the rear section, feet on the rail, eating Junior Mints. And, no, I do not have a beard and doubt that I ever will. Pretty funny that you were there, though. I always find it surprising when I stumble across a TigerHawk reader in Princeton.  

By Blogger demosophist, at Mon Aug 14, 12:42:00 PM:

I may have been wrong about the beard. If that was you, I was one row behind you and one seat to the left (forward facing).

So, wanna help me move in to my new apartment on September 1? Rewards include money, food and beer.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Aug 14, 02:28:00 PM:

I'm about twenty years past being motivated by any of those things, I'm afraid. At least if the task I am to be motivated to do involves extensive schlepping.  

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