Plot: What’s it about?
One of the benefits of running a site like this is that if you’re a movie-lover, like me, then you’ll get your share of good and bad films on DVD. I can count the number of discs I’ve had to pay for on one finger and while it sounds lavish – there’s a downside. But I digress…Another thing I get asked, mainly by family and friends, is “what did you get in that’s new and good?” My father recently asked me this and I told him that I got “World Trade Center” and he instantly responded with “It’s too early for movies about 9/11.” And you know what; I think he has a point. I try to approach every DVD I watch with an unbiased attitude and judge just the film and not what it’s trying to say or accomplish. Unfortunately with movies about the single greatest terrorist attack on the United States, it is hard to keep focused. A few months back “United 93” became the first major film about the events of September 11 and it focused on the terrorists point of view. We knew there was suffering on the ground and that’s where “World Trade Center” comes in. It’s no doubt that Oliver Stone is an extremely talented filmmaker, but I’m trying my hardest to figure out exactly where “World Trade Center” went wrong.
As this, and I’m sure most every other movie about this subject, begins on the morning of September 11, 2001 we meet John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) as he starts his daily routine and job as a Port Authority Sergeant. We see his wife, kids and the accoutrements of his home. Conversely, we see nearly the exact same thing with Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) as he heads down to start another day on the job. Naturally we all know what happens once the day got going, but “World Trade Center” focuses on just these two men. The Port Authority Police, along with the New York Fire Department are all extremely brave and rushed head first into the rubble to help the survivors of the towers’ collapse. However John and Will, along with a few others, get caught in the wreckage of one of the towers and we follow them through their struggle to maintain their sanity and survive. Both men have wives, played by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal respectively and both are pregnant. With an overflow of emotion already, this is where Stone went wrong with the movie.
Again, I’m not discounting that day, it was horrible and if I had my way – it wouldn’t have happened. But the movie seems to be a gratuitous ploy on our emotions. We feel bad for the thousands of people who lost loved ones, the countless families that are no longer complete and now we’ve got a movie with two great heroes churning out dialogue that becomes so clichéd, it’s almost sickening. There’s the worrying, the waiting and the watching on CNN and we feel for the families but it’s so incessantly pounded in our heads throughout the two hours that we know they’ll make it out alive, we just don’t know how. Ultimately, it’s depressing to watch and it really didn’t have to be. “United 93” was one of the most intense movies I’ve seen in a while and the subject matter was exactly the same. Stone has had plenty of hits in his career, but I wouldn’t count this as one of them. I’m sure there’ll be more movies about September 11 and I’ll continue to watch them with an open and objective mind but for me “World Trade Center” didn’t deliver.
Video: How does it look?
“World Trade Center” is shown in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that looks pretty good. There are spots in the movie that look intentionally grainy and some stock footage as well. There’s some obvious CGI work that looks surprisingly real and I found no evidence of artifacting or edge enhancement. A majority of the film takes place in the wreckage of the towers and as a result it’s very dark. The transfer seems to hold up well as this would be a perfect time for the flaws to show. They don’t. Stone usually shoots in a wider scope (2.35:1) but I think he chose a narrower palette to concentrate on the characters a bit more. A good choice if that’s what he had in mind.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track sounds pretty good and if there was ever any doubt that my subwoofer wasn’t working, this movie proved it wrong. There’s a point when the towers are falling that is perhaps one of the most active that I can remember. Thankfully my sub isn’t so big that it shook the room, but I can see this easily being the case for those that have a larger unit. Surround effects add some additional ambiance and vocals are clear and consistent.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc edition has the movie on the first disc and the supplements located on the other disc. Additionally, this title is scheduled to appear on HD DVD where I’m sure all of the materials will be located on one disc. There are two commentary tracks, the first with Director Oliver Stone and the second with real-life survivor Will Jimeno and some of his rescuers. Both tracks are very good, but Stone’s does tend to drag on a little more. He’s been guilty of this before as he sits back and admires his own work a little too much. The more active (and emotional) one is the second with Jimeno who gives us some of the details that weren’t shown on screen. Next up are some deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Stone. Four featurettes are also included: “The Making of World Trade Center” in which we get an EPK of the making of the movie, some behind the scenes footage and some interviews with the cast and crew. “Common Sacrifice” concentrates on the two real-life survivors of the movie, John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno and shows us the events of their lives from then until now. “Building Ground Zero” shows us the production design on the building of Ground Zero for the film and what it took to make it look authentic. Lastly we have “Oliver Stone’s New York” as he tells of his experiences of growing up in the city, his military past and NYU Film school.