Vol.23 No.162

Friday 27 October 2006    
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Arts/Culture Review
'Where are we? Alive in Hell!'

10/27/2006 5:59:13 PM (GMT +2)

"World Trade Center" (2006) is at the New Capital Cinemas. This is a movie based on the premise that we should honour the living. It is the true story of two policemen and their families. Will Jimeno (acted by Michael Pe-a, who starred in "Crash") has served for six years, has a wife, Allison (Maggie Gyllenhaal), one daughter and another on the way. Each acquiesces to the other's choice of a name for their next daughter. Not very dramatic, but human and emotional in the context of all the suffering around them.

Sergeant John McLoughlin (a thinned down Nicolas Cage in a fine performance) has 21 years of service under his belt. "People don't like me because I don't smile a lot", he says from under the "pile of pick-up sticks" that has fallen on top of him. When he has halucinations about his wife, Donna (Maria Bello), and hears her complaining that he never finsihed re-modelling their kitchen, he says, "Get off my back. I'm stuck". She tells him that "Somewhere along the way they stopped looking at each other". Will takes the lead in trying to survive. He says, "Keep talking, don't go to sleep, or you will die". The film opens in the dark with the two policemen getting up and leaving home to go to work. The sun comes up over a beautiful New York City. It is the morning of 9-11-2001 (the American sequence of putting the month first).

Then the twin towers are hit. As soon as the first plane hit Tower One, Sergeant McLoughlin and his men are dispatched to the site. The four who go inside to try to rescue people are caught in the debris when the buildings begin to implode. They rescue no one, instead they must be rescued. Then Building 5 collapses around them too. They are in Ground Zero. Two of their team die, but Will and John struggle to survive. It is a bit like watching a movie on spelunking-the sport of crawling through underground caverns-very dismal and at very close quarters, as they are caught under slabs of concrete. This section of the movie is mostly filmed in the dark.

The other point of this movie concerns what is going on above ground. After much flitting about the camera focuses on the wives, children and extended families of the two police officers. At first this demands a lot from the viewer, but the two wives are both well acted and one begins to identify with their anxieties, their overall plight. Oddly the hero of the story is Dane Karnes (Michael Shannon) a man who puts on his uniform and seeks action, who says, "We are Marines and you are our mission". He went in when the others were quitting. He found the last two people to be rescued. Then came emergency service workers, Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff) and paramedic Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley). Karnes later sought his personal revenge on the wrong target, volunteering twice to serve in Iraq.

In the end, approximately 400 firemen and police officers went in and only 20 came out. Officially 2,749 died, from 89 countries. The tribute by Mira Nair to a Muslim, a Pakistani-American, a paramedic who died inside the towers, whom the authorites labelled a terrorist, only six months later recognising him as a hero, took a very different angle. Her approach in her short film, which is part of "September 11" (2003) was to look at someone who died, not those who lived.

Perhaps by focusing on survivors, the makers of "World Trade Center" wanted to give a ray of hope? Overall it remains a sad and oppressive film, at times a difficult movie to watch. It speeds up when the rescuers arrive and the families gather at Bellevue Hospital to welcome their heroes out of the ambulances.

It has been a rolling disaster worldwide ever since, with the so-called war on terrorism and the escalation in response on both sides. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.

Seek revenge - on whom? Iraq, with disastrous consequences for Iraq and the world economy as the links to both what happened in New York and weapons for mass destruction have not been proven.

Disaster films are a genre in themselves. Most notable are "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), "Towering Inferno" (1974) and "Airport" (1975), though there are many others not as good as these classics. "World Trade Center" touches raw nerves as it happened only five years ago and its consequences have been world shattering. Older disasters like the "Hindenburg" (1975) and the "Titanic" (1953 and 1997) have also been filmed, the latter having grossed over seven billion pula, showing that there is revenue to be made from disasters (the director was paid his ten percent too).

"World Trade Center" is Oliver Stone's resurrection as it moves him back into the limelight after a series of movie disasters, including "Alexander" (2004), for which he also wrote the script.

"World Trade Center" is just over two hours long. It is in English. It is rated 10 plus. The director is Oliver Stone; the script is by Andrea Berloff, from the life stories of John and Donna McLoughlin and William and Allison Jimeno. The cinematographer is Seamus McGarvey; the editors are David Brenner and Julie Monroe and the music is by Craig Armstrong. sasa_majuma@yahoo.co.uk Send us your comments about Mmegi newspaper Search For Old Newspaper Editions To advertise contact us through email

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