After the critical disaster that was Alexander, director Oliver Stone returns to the safety of home soil for a personal story of bravery and brotherhood in the aftermath of 9/11 with Word Trade Center.
Nicholas Cage stars as John McLoughlin, the leader of a small group of Port Authority cops that entered the World Trade Center just after the second plane hit the south tower.
Before they had a chance to evacuate the public, the building came down around their ears, crushing some and burying the remainder in over 20ft of concrete and twisted metal. Despite horrific injuries two of the group (Cage and Pena) amazingly survived the carnage, and Stone tells the remarkable story of their struggle to hang on until the rescue teams finally located them in the rubble.
For a liberal firebrand such as Stone, “World Trade Center” is an uncharacteristically restrained, apolitical take on 9/11.
There is an occasional mention of “those bastards” (the terrorists) and George Dubbya’s simian features pop up on a TV screen at one point but, otherwise, Stone concentrates on the personal tales of the policemen buried in the rubble.
After a slickly engineered opening montage that gives us a glimpse into the home lives of all the cops involved, Stone takes us straight into the action with a terrifying action sequence shot from under the south tower as the building collapses. From then on he switches between the buried cops and their wives (played with typical aplomb by Gyllenhaal and, particularly, Bello) who are waiting for news of their husbands at home, unsure if they entered the building before the planes struck.
The highlight of this bumper “commemorative edition” is a 55-minute featurette entitled “A Common Sacrifice” that maps out McLoughlin and Jimeno's real-life ordeal, rescue and subsequent recovery. The second featurette, a lengthy “Making Of”, covers the less interesting aspects of the production such as set design, rehearsals and research.
Elsewhere, there are nine deleted scenes, most of which were left out of the final cut – which was already well over two hours long – as Stone feared they would be too syrupy sweet to stomach.
Completing the package are two commentaries, the first from Stone, the second from real-life survivor Will Jimeno and real-life rescuers Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee who struggle to hold back the tears as they recall their experiences on the day.
While Cage gives a dignified performance (his usual over-acting is thankfully muffled by dust and debris) and Pena more than holds his own, Stone’s use of domestic flashbacks and clumsy religious imagery soon begins to grate.
Having said that, the lengthy 129 minute running time flies by (perhaps not the best metaphor) and Stone’s patriotic message about the bravery of America’s blue collar heroes will no doubt find widespread approval on the other side of the Atlantic.
Staring: Nicholas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Hernandez, Stephen Dorff
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Extras: Audio commentary from director Oliver Stone, Audio commentary from real-life survivor Will Jimeno and real-life rescuers Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee, Deleted scenes, 'Making Of' featurette, 'Common Sacrifices' featurette, 'Oliver Stone's New York' featurette, Building Ground Zero, Photo gallery