Friday, August 11, 2006

World Trade Center

by Brian
We’ve heard a lot about how World Trade Center is not the typical Oliver Stone movie. After watching it, I think that’s true, up to a point. As has been said countless times before, there’s no discernable political point of view. And in stylistic terms, it’s probably the most straightforward movie he’s done since Platoon, and it shares with that movie the same limited perspective. He doesn’t use any quick editing or different film stocks that became his trademark after JFK.

Looking past that, though, it’s easy to see thematic threads in the movie that tie in with his past work. One thing that nearly all Stone movies (caveat: I still haven’t seen The Doors or Heaven on Earth) have in common are characters that struggle to find the goodness in themselves. From Richard Boyle in Salvador, to Barry Champaign in Talk Radio, to Jim Garrison in JFK, to even Richard Nixon and Alexander the Great, the one unifying theme throughout Stone’s work has been the struggle to maintain personal integrity against outside influences that seek to undermine it.

That’s why, despite conventional wisdom (not to mention my own misgivings), Stone is the perfect director for this material. World Trade Center is a great film, not despite the lack of political content, but because of it. Because Stone is so used to working on this kind of emotional terrain, he’s able to see the struggle that these men face so clearly. These two men, trapped in the rubble of the first tower, aren’t fighting against Islamic terrorists or misbegotten US policies or anything else in the political realm, so these things have no place in the film. Instead, they’re fighting against their own will to live, and the pain and darkness and hopelessness that try to sap that will from them.

The film is filled with moments of great emotion, some of them actually very joyful. Stone does a fantastic job of taking a small story and writing it large, although of course he has very large context to place the story in. Nonetheless, the emotional bombast that occasionally mars his films feels honest and appropriate here. Much of the credit goes to the actors; Michael Pena, Maria Bello, and especially Maggie Gyllenhaal are all great. I was less thrilled with Nicolas Cage, who is mostly convincing, but never really what I would call authentic.

A final note: I’ve read that test audiences had trouble buying the character of Dave Karnes, the ex-Marine who sneaks his way through security in order to look for survivors in the rubble. It’s not hard to see why, because he does seem like a Hollywood creation. But reading about the guy, it’s clear that, if anything, Stone and screenwriter Andrea Berloff actually play down elements of his character.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

I thought this film was very well done. What's most interesting about it is how it focuses on one very small slice of the whole experience. We get a few scenes of how the rest of the world reacts, but essentially this is a film that could have been about any rescue operation, it just happens to have taken place on 9/11.

8/21/2006 07:12:00 AM  

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