Too Soon, They Cry

One can never quite shake the feeling that Hollywood is just filling its coffers too soon after the disaster.

Feature by Simone Gray | 13 Sep 2006
As the film 'World Trade Center' comes to British cinemas, its director Oliver Stone has again been forced to defend the making of his newest blockbuster at the London premiere. While the debate re-ignites, will Stone have done enough to draw a crowd and, ultimately, will they be pleased with what is on offer?

The film, based on a true story, is the tale of two New York Port Authority policemen and their frantic, desperate struggle to survive the destruction of the famous American skyscrapers. It begins with the start of a new day, following the two lead characters: John McLoughlin, played by Nicolas Cage and Will Jimeno, played, opinions say expertly, by Michael Peña of 'Crash' fame. On this seemingly normal New York morning they head to work leaving the warmth and safety of their homes, oblivious to the chaos that is about to ensue. It tells a subjective tale of the day through their eyes and the eyes of their families waiting at home as the events unfold. As they run for their lives while the building starts to implode, Stone cuts between the officers and their families, and we are given an insight into their experiences across a full day and night. We have a close up and at times claustrophobic view as they struggle to survive, trapped in a man made hell under tons of rubble.

The big budget no doubt creates impressive moments of terror but it is perhaps this big movie treatment that most incites the critics. In true Hollywood style, the film dramatises the event with computer generated effects, big showbiz names, dramatic voiceovers and slow motion shots all set to a predictably sentimental score. One can't help but think that the truth didn't need to be made any more dramatic, but the emotive direction does everything it can to make it all the more harrowing. While Stone has handled the topic with a respectful and sober semi-documentary style, one can never quite shake the feeling that Hollywood, despite its apparently gentle touch, is filling its coffers too soon after the disaster that affected so many so deeply.

Vanessa Lawrence, a Scottish born artist, was in one of the towers on that day, and she wasn't sure how she felt about the making of this movie. Perhaps indicating that the controversy of cinematic timing and motive is a very real issue even here, across the Atlantic, she says; "Part of me is curious to see how they have done this film, but watching the trailer with the typical voiceovers leaves me feeling sick to my stomach. The thought of exploiting the event makes me angry and it raises the question of where the proceeds go to? Would I go and see it? Maybe."

If Oliver Stone had to make this movie, despite the sentiment and debate that rages around it, perhaps his handling of the subject was the best that he could have mustered. It certainly doesn't have the fizz or controversial spirit we have become used to in his films (think 'JFK', 'Nixon' and 'Any Given Sunday'). Most would have expected Stone to lace his take with conspiratorial twists but instead he insists his focus was solely on the human element of survival in this most extraordinary and chaotic of scenarios. He says, "I wanted to do what I did in 'Platoon', to use realism to honour the people who were there at ground zero that day." In the face of the doubts aroused by the mere making of the film, perhaps Stone and Paramount knew this was the only angle they as industry giants could have taken without causing landslide American unpopularity and box office boycotts.

Stone's unexpectedly conventional take on that fateful day results in 125 minutes of well made but disturbing viewing that has much of mainstream America praising his efforts at patriotism. Yet others remain unconvinced that this movie highlights the silver lining of a very dark cloud on the American skyline but instead believe that the exploitation does nothing more than line the pockets of these Goliaths of the silver screen.
Dir: Oliver Stone
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maria Bello
Release Date: September 29th
Cert: TBC http://ttp://