World Trade Center: The movie

I thought I was going to die. As the cloud of destruction caught up with me, hitting me in the back with pieces of the World Trade Center and then enveloping me in darkness, my first thought was anger — not yet at the people who had done this but at me, for being there, for dying, for leaving my family. Next, I wondered whether I would be buried there on the street and whether I would be found.

I dreaded seeing Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center for many reasons. First, I thought the cloud of dust and death would bring back too many memories, would make it too real again. But no, the mountain of destruction that Port Authority Police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno survived was their own hell, far worse than anything I saw and far worse in reality, the two men have said, than anything that could be depicted in a movie.

No, what was worse for me was watching the families, feeling their fear and loneliness, their anger, despair, and resignation. I thought of my family; on the first anniversary of the day, my wife said she told people that day that I was missing, which had not occurred to me before that. And then I thought of the thousands of families who did not close that day, as Stone’s heroes can, with happy endings and cheers.

And, yes, I also dreaded the movie because of who made it. I feared what Oliver Stone would do to this story with his tin-foil theories and lump-of-lead style. But he had the wisdom to stand aside and let the tale tell itself. This is a story that cannot bear subtlety, and so perhaps Stone was the right person to tell it. But I must say that I find it hard to judge the film myself, to withdraw to a critical distance. For me and for so many others, this is more than a movie. It is memory.

There are moments in the film that mesh and do not mesh with my memory. As the Port Authority Police squad arrives downtown, we see that first piece of paper floating down to a corner of the screen. That white, cold blizzard of lives interrupted, falling from the painfully blue sky of that day — which I walked through, occasionally picking up one piece of a memo or expense account to read about the end of ordinariness — was indescribable in its emotional impact, and so it is fitting and eloquent that it starts here with just one sheet. But the sounds weren’t quite right. As Stone shows footage panning up to the burning tower, we hear a roar. No, I recall the roar of a jet and then of flame and finally the roar of the building collapsing, but inbetween, it was oddly silent there. There were still sounds to be heard — horrific sounds and terrified gasps in response — but these were strangely quiet noises. And after the tower fell, after the roar and crash and screams, it was silent again. The speed of it is also out of sync for me. When the officers arrive inside the towers, Stone shows a line of people moving at refugee speed: slowly, as in a death march. I don’t remember that at all. Before we knew what had happened in the towers, we moved at New York speed and then, when the disaster became apparent, life sped up. I will always recall the police officer who shouted at us as we came out under Tower Five and as debris rained down still: “Run!” she yelled, “Run!” And then we turned around and stared, still again. There was no slow that day. I will always remember the faces of the first responders as they went into the towers and Stone and his stars got that exactly right: determination matched with fear. And then there is the veil of smoke. When Jimeno comes out of his hole, he asks what happened to the buildings; even he did not know they were gone. Neither did I. All I saw was the top coming down as I ran away; that’s all I knew for hours. The Marine who rescues the men says in the film, “God made a curtain with the smoke, shielding us from what we’re not yet ready to see.”

But this is not a critique of the movie, more of the memory. There is much to praise and little to fault in World Trade Center. Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena as the rescued police and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello as their wives play their roles with dignity, humanity, and honesty. The script is as straightforward as it can be. Stone brings to life the scenes of destruction with sweeping skill and, as other reviewers have pointed out, unprecedented restraint.

There is also much to praise in the mission of the movie, expressed by one of the players in a voiceover at the end: To show not just the evil of that day but the good and to recognize the heroes.

But I also wonder what more of the story we should be telling now. What is the message about 9/11 that our culture leaves? World Trade Center and United 93 our the first war movies for this war. They are from the front. And they each follow a formula of the form. World Trade Center is the buddy movie: two comrades in arms fighting side-by-side to survive and do good, showing their humanity and their love. United 93 is the movie that shows us the bad guys and leaves us free to despise them. Both celebrate the heroism of our guys on our side, as war movies must. Both stick as hard to the facts of their stories as they can, assiduously not trying to make political or historic points; old war movies assume the agenda but these seem to avoid it. The two movies differ in their endings: United 93 clearly cannot give us a happy ending in that field in Pennsylvania, but Stone’s World Trade Center does: cheers from the army of first-responders hoisting McLoughlin into daylight and hugs from the families as the men battle back.

But are there truly happy endings to this story yet? McLoughlin and Jimeno said on the Today show that they do not pay attention to the anniversary approaching or any of those past because after what they survived and how it changed their lives, every day is a sufficient reminder of 9/11. Only 20 people were rescued from the debris of the World Trade Center and when I met another of them, Pasquale Buzzelli, a few years ago, I noted that survival is only the beginning of an entirely new story filled not just with gratitude and hope but also with pain, anger, and guilt. Buzzelli’s story, I said then, is the story of the attacked America, slowly recovering. Do we have the truly happy ending that war movies depend upon: victory? No. Have we seen the story of the evil men who did this, the enemy, exposing their black and empty souls? No, we continue to avoid that in some perverted dance of sensitivity and correctness, when I say what the world most needs to do is face that evil, eye-to-eye. I’ve said that this is the one time we need Stone’s conspiracy theories but they are not theories here. But the story of these men is not the template for that.

So I don’t fault Oliver Stone and his World Trade Center for anything. But I think it is necessary to remind ourselves that this is only one small story, two happy endings among so many thousands of unhappy ones. It is one chapter in a much larger story that is not near an ending yet.

* * *

Other reaction from elsewhere:

In the New York Times, local columnist Clyde Haberman wrote a column about the movie that I found to be the height of snideness. It begins with a shocking lack of respect:

Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” opens in theaters tomorrow, having benefited from more free publicity than even Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes could dream of.

Here is a man who clearly will use anything for cheap gag in a lead.

Inevitably, some have protested that it is “too soon” for a movie like this; in those ranks are at least a few relatives of 9/11 victims. . . .

None of these protesters offer a hint as to when it may not be “too soon” — 7 years after the fact, 10 years, 25? Is there some unwritten statute of limitations that must expire before Americans may explore cinematically the most devastating attack ever on their soil?

Clearly, the answer is no. . . .

It seems not to have occurred to some too-sooners that there is a simple way to cope with their emotional turmoil over this film: Don’t go.

By not going, they will enjoy the side benefit of saving themselves the price of a ticket.

And it only gets worse, as he attacks Rudy Guiliani for having the temerity to have a political career after City Hall. And then he says:

Money issues aside, the Oliver Stone movie may raise important questions about our tolerance for possibly unpopular points of view.

I can’t parse what he means there. Is he trying to raise the notion that the attack is somehow our fault? Is he merely attacking Guliani?

What if a future filmmaker wishes to explore aspects of 9/11 that are not soul-stirring? What if some people trapped inside the twin towers are portrayed as far-from-noble figures? Or if a movie dwells on the catastrophic failure of communications between the Police and Fire Departments that occurred on Mr. Giuliani’s watch, a breakdown that was perhaps responsible for hundreds of needless deaths?

Will people say that artistic freedom is a supreme American virtue, even if it means exposing some warts?

Or will they declare 9/11 to be sacred, rendering blasphemous any challenge to its heroic story line?

On this score, the real test of free expression may still lie ahead.

Well, clearly, nothing is sacred to Haberman.

: Says The Times’ A.O. Scott:

But Paul Greengrass’s “United 93” and Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center,” rather than digging for meanings and metaphors, represent a return to the literal.

Both films revisit the immediate experience of Sept. 11, staking out a narrow perspective and filling it with maximum detail. Mr. Stone, much of whose film takes place at ground zero, does not share Mr. Greengrass’s clinical, quasi-documentary aesthetic. His sensibility is one of visual grandeur, sweeping emotion and heightened, sometimes overwrought, drama.

There are many words a critic might use to describe Mr. Stone’s films — maddening, brilliant, irresponsible, provocative, long — but subtle is unlikely to be on the list. Which makes him the right man for the job, since there was nothing subtle about the emotions of 9/11. Later there would be complications, nuances, gray areas, as the event and its aftermath were inevitably pulled into the murky, angry swirl of American politics. But that is territory Mr. Stone, somewhat uncharacteristically, avoids.

: Desson Thomson in the Washington Post:

When the movies revisit tragedy of grand scale, a viewer’s underlying hope is to learn something new and illuminating beyond the immediate story. In a film about two policemen trapped under the collapsed World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, for example, one wants it to go further than chronicle their anguish. It should ask: What did they learn under that bone-crushing steel and concrete? How was the experience for their loved ones, who waited desperately for word of their survival as the world looked on? What was it like to be an American during that time — or a human being? How do we respond to tragedy?

“World Trade Center,” Oliver Stone’s film about Port Authority officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (played, respectively, by Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña), is long on veneration for its subjects and scrupulous in portraying the details, big and small, of what unfolded that day. But it shortchanges audiences when it comes to dramatic revelations that could have resonated on a deeper level. It telegraphs its emotions loud and clear, but somehow they don’t reach us.

: Kenneth Turan in the LA Times:

It’s taken the Hollywood system five years to come up with a major motion picture about what happened at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, but if you think that time was used for thoughtful introspection and careful analysis about the best way to approach those agonizing and unprecedented events, you just don’t know Hollywood.

What that time has gone into instead is making the story of Sept. 11 fit as closely as possible into the business-as-usual norms of sentimental studio moviemaking. The problem is not so much that “World Trade Center” is an attempt to make a feel-good movie about a ghastly situation, it’s that the result feels forced, manufactured and largely — but not entirely — unconvincing.

  • clinton

    jarvis to what end do we let the anger and rancor overcome us? and face the evil as you say? as a nation we are succeeding in getting past 9-11 but that has been accomplished with positivity and not the skulking anger you seem to advocate. lets celebrate heroes and destroy our enemies when better solutions arent available. but frankly weve stewed in our anger long enough.

  • penny

    i’ll pass, jeff, anticipating that oliver stone will make his next appearance as one of castro’s pallbearers. there are lines that i refuse to cross and reward financially.

    “United 93” was a great film, the simple facts, no embellishments. of course, the lefty elite stayed home – not nuanced enough and far too patriotic.

    ” I can’t parse what he means there. Is he trying to raise the notion that the attack is somehow our fault? Is he merely attacking Guliani?

    no surprise… spite of the raw evil of 9/11, it won’t be more than a few comments on that the moral equivocators and root cause minions will appear. those amoral and muddled lefty(today’s fascists) jew and america haters we innocently thought only existed in the third reich, not america. the emergence of these fools since 9/11 is as shocking as 9/11.

  • james

    Wow, penny, that sure is a lot of hate you’ve got festering in your soul.

    Misguided hate is the worst kind.

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  • chico haas

    Yes, yes, but have you seen the movie?

  • Frank

    Mr Depperman, get your own blog please. What you did is incredibly rude.

  • Mike

    Did anyone actually read that diatribe? I scrolled past it.

  • I don’t want to see the movie. It’s not that it’s “too soon” or that the events depicted are draped with a “feel-good” ending. It’s just that I personally don’t want to see those events depicted/recreated for the Hollywood camera. I don’t think it’s to wrong for artists to create art about September 11, but poets can do a better job than Hollywood filmakers when it comes to such horrific events. Movies are not depictions of reality, but compressions of reality, necessarily changing and rearranging the elements of history to maximize dramatic effect. Stone’s movie is reductive; it trivializes an unspeakable human tragedy. That’s not necessarily his fault as an artist because, in order to fit September 11 into a film, he must create artistic distortions. I don’t want to see the movie because I don’t want to see Stone’s politcal or apolitcal, intentonaly or unintentional distortions.

  • pacific_waters

    Who filled depperman’s pipe? Does he really think anyone will read his diatribe? Please Jeff, moderate!

  • I got rid of the depperman posts. they were, uh, off-topic. sorry for the delay. wasn’t online.

  • How much of our failure to define our enemies as the evil black holes they must be is really a failure of leadership? Lord knows, W can hardly articulate what he had for breakfast, so is it any wonder he hasn’t inspired even a portion of even one generation to do anything?

    And a mercenary workforce huffing it over to Iraq to earn big bucks doing “security detail,” what ever the f that is, hasn’t exactly lighted a spark of inspiration under the American public. Look at what doing “security detail” didn’t do for poor Lieberman on Tues.

    Seems the White House is lacking not only inspiration and leadership, but the propaganda tools it needs to wage the war it needs to be fighting. And if Trade Center is as Jeff says it is, we aren’t likely to get ’em from Hollywood. Guess this means we’re on our own now.

  • penny

    Grayson – perhaps you’ve missed the consistent message by Bush over the years that terrorists are evil.

    And, perhaps you’ve missed the nonexistent or muted condemnations of this evil by the far left, the utter failure of the MSM to present terrorists in the light they should be cast in, and the outright admirers occasionally making cameo appearances from our college campuses.

    Bush is hardly the problem when it comes to identifying and addressing the evil nature of these terrorists. He doesn’t control the media, which in some cases have acted as Fifth Columns, no less. How do you employ “propaganda tools” to get the message out when the MSM refuses to sincerely take a strong position condemning terrorism or help? CBS is going to humanize the rabidly insane Iranian president in an interview this week with Mike Wallace. Whose propaganda mission are they serving?

  • mikenyc

    Great post, Jeff. Thanks for the incite. Remarkable.

  • You’re a hoot, Penny! CBS News has been trying for decades to “humanize” Mike Wallace. They have yet to accomplish even that minor goal, so I’m hardly shaking in my Manolos about America falling in love with Ahmadinejad. Maybe if I put my hands on the TV set while he’s speaking. Of course, that’s the quaint little mind-control technique favored by our more flashy televangelists here own South. Works like a charm!

  • Pete

    Reading this brings me back to that day as well. I was at 101 Barclay that day, which was just behind Tower 7. You mentioned how you were struck by the silence but the one thing that I remember more than anything else from that day was the continuous sounds of the sirens. To this day every time I hear one I get chills. We were lucky as we didn’t have the clouds of dust chasing us up the street as we evacuated that morning.

    I don’t know if I could watch a movie about it. It’s burned into my memory quite clearly.

  • JB

    “Great post, Jeff. Thanks for the incite. Remarkable.”

    Incite? Pun intended?

  • penny

    Of course, that’s the quaint little mind-control technique favored by our more flashy televangelists here own South.

    Throw it away. Please. It’s so worn out. It’s boring.

    Find some lame original equivalence that’s fresher than the millions of Christian zombies wrecking havoc on our lives, right!, versus a professed “I wipe Israel off the map” maniac who is assembling a nuclear bomb to do it.

    What’s the bottomline for smucks like you to drop the stupid snark and grow up?

  • penny

    “I wipe Israel off the map” , make that ““I will wipe Israel off the map” .

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  • Eve

    My hometown is NYC I live in the Southeast now, I saw the movie WTC yesterday and had a panic attack as soon as the buses were filled with the police officers, I still dont feel quite right today, not that it’s too soon but, it felt like it was happening all over again, I must have experienced the so called “emotion” that Stone was looking for but for me it was awful having to relive just the general feeling of helplessness, that maybe we cant fend off these “black holeists” My mother was on 57th east that morning and we did not speak for well than 9 hours after the trajedy which made it difficult to grasp, how we as nation can sit by and allow our emergency systems to out date themselves and not to demand a better response time of the federal government, this trajedy should not have fallen on the shoulders of the city workers only, See what I mean, I’m not even making sense, that’s how affected I still am over seeing this film. To all those suffering from depression and anxiety stay away from this type of film. My husband says that the studios are going to turn this into a tv movie within the year. Any thoughts on that?

  • Steve

    I was extremely disappointed with the new World Trade Center Movie. I could elaborate on numerous holes, but watching a visible microphone in numerous scenes was very discouraging….and quite annoying. There were 5 of us, and all of us could not believe that a powerhouse like Stone could allow such a serious blooper in the movie. Several scenes included a traveling microphone. I’m amazed these distracting bloopers were not edited out of the movie.

    Another annoying aspect was the marine character who starts in a church spouting his “duty” to go to New York, then ends of wandering around at the epicenter. I guess his character was suppose to represent the courage and commitment of the US Marines, but this guy came across as nothing more than a redneck with no depth whatsoever.

    What an amazing disappointment. The United 93 movie was more powerful and believable thatn World Trade Center. The collapsing building scene and sounds were excellent, but overall, this movie was barely a 6 out 10.

  • Angie

    I agree with Quinn, about not wanting to see those events recreated in a movie, but I feel that the bigger moral issue is that people are profiting from a national tragedy. Apparently, the opening weekend profits are being donated to organizations supporting the victims of 9/11, but I don’t feel that is good enough.

    I took my son to NYC this summer and we walked to Ground Zero. There were signs posted asking people to please not buy anything from the peddlers and vendors trying to sell their wares at the site, so they could not profit from the tragedy of 9/11. Why should movie stars and producers be treated any differently?

  • Dan


    You are completly missing the point about this movie. It is not about the cinematic details but rather recounting the most horrific day in American history. I think every American should see this movie because too many people have already forgotten. We should never forget, nor should we ever let our guard down. These terrorist will not just go away….they will keep trying until they wipe us off the face of the earth…and if you don’t believe that, just watch the news…24 terrorist arrested in Britain planning to blow up 10 planes in American cities….just days away from being carried out…..

  • Dionne

    I think many of you are missing the point of this movie. It’s telling “a” story about one of the most horrific day’s in American history. I think it’s a simple “reminder” of the threats we face daily. If you’ve watched the news lately, you have seen that terrorist’s were arrested in Britain planning to blow up 10 planes in American cities. Not seeing this movie is one’s perogative, but keep your head out of the sand…terrorist’s will not just go away….they will keep trying to destroy this great land of ours and will not relent. 9/11 HAPPENED. I don’t want to see the movie for anymore of the sadness or the actual act of terrorism, but I want to see it to experience the heroism of that day. A story of the people that saved lives and the way we as Americans came together as one nation, no races, no prejudice…as one, to help each other.

  • There were plenty of heroes that day, and that’s the point of this movie. It’s a good story, and Nick Cage is one of my favorite actors. I’m definitely going to see it, and I’m taking my Dashboard Mohammed with me to watch it, too.

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  • J

    “Government officials later confirmed that the organization which plotted the destruction of the World Trade Center was al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi Arabian, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian. Nineteen men executed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Fifteen of them came from Saudi Arabia; the remaining four from Egypt, The United Arab Emirates, and Lebanon. None of them came from Iraq.”

  • jay

    Here is a real story that details the colossal error in Stone’s movie.

    ‘WTC’ casting error draws flak from African-Americans
    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    By L.A. Johnson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A hero of another color in Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” has some people again balking at the whitewashing of a black character in a Hollywood film.

    This time it’s the character of Marine Sgt. Thomas, one of two former Marines who help rescue New York Port Authority Officers Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin from beneath 20 feet of twisted metal, broken concrete and sparking debris in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    In the film, white actor William Mapother — who’s Tom Cruise’s cousin and who played Ethan Rom in the first season of “Lost” and Quecreek miner John “Flathead” Phillippi in ABC’s “The Pennsylvania Miners’ Story” — plays Sgt. Thomas.

    Last week, the real Sgt. Thomas — a black, former Marine named Jason Thomas of Columbus, Ohio — came forward and told his story.

    “Someone needed help. It didn’t matter who,” Thomas told the Associated Press. “I didn’t even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, ‘My city is in need.’ ”

    So, instead of heading to class at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York that fateful morning, he headed toward the devastation. At ground zero, he ran into another ex-Marine and Connecticut accountant, Staff Sgt. David Karnes, and the two decided to search for survivors. Eventually they found Jimeno and McLoughlin.

    Karnes, who couldn’t reach Manhattan’s 911 from his cell phone at ground zero, called his sister in Munhall, Joy Karnes. She helped relay information to New York emergency services that helped them pinpoint the trapped men’s location.

    Film producer Michael Shamberg apologized to Thomas for the racial inaccuracy in the film, saying they realized the mistake only after production had already begun, the Associated Press reported.

    That apology comes a bit late for Paradise Gray, 42, of Wilkinsburg who sent out e-mails to hundreds of thousands via African-American list serves and Internet groups, such as the Luv4Self Network yesterday calling for a boycott of the film.

    “You want to apologize to me?” Mr. Gray says. “Stop it.”

    Black men so rarely are portrayed or presented as heroes in popular culture and the media that when the opportunity to do so arises, they should be, he says.

    “It’s so natural for Hollywood to assume that every hero is a white man,” Mr. Gray wrote in his e-mail. “Hollywood has always changed facts and edited history. From Charlton Heston as Moses and Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. They are only continuing their tradition of whitewashing our history.”

    He also criticized the black community for not speaking out more. The Jewish community’s mantra is “never forget” while the black community’s mantra is “forgive and forget,” he said. The black community should speak up every time this happens.

    Six years ago, there was a similar controversy surrounding color-blind casting in the film “Pay It Forward.” Kevin Spacey’s white burn victim in the movie actually was a black Vietnam veteran in the book.

    Though disappointed his character in the “World Trade Center” movie wasn’t black, Thomas, who lived on Long Island during the attacks and now works as an officer in Ohio’s Supreme Court, told the Associated Press he’s not upset.

    “I don’t want to shed any negativity on what they were trying to show,” he said.

    The movie is much bigger than him, Thomas told the New Pittsburgh Courier, and it’s the people who lost their lives who need to remembered.


    (L.A. Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or 412-263-3903. )

  • kim

    it is too soon to make this movie. i can only imagine the profit that Stone is making from this movie. will he be giving any of the profits to the families and victims of that awful day that none of us will ever forget.
    i will not see this movie only to put more money in the pockets of Stone, Cage and all involved in this movie. America, Wake Up! Don’t see films like this that only Hollywood benefits from. Think of all those people who died that day and thier families left behind, we don’t need Stone or anyone else to remind us of that.

  • “…destroy our enemies when better solutions arent available.” What better solution could there possibly be than destroying our enemies? Victory is the best solution. Destroy all hope they have of global jihad. Ruthless, relentless destruction. Peace will follow fast.

  • Jerry

    Came to the party with Angie’s attitude (screw Oliver Stone and his tin foil hat friends), but was fine-tuned by Quinn’s insightful comments. Quinn, I couldn’t agree more; thanks for nailing it.

    As for Stone, propaganda is propaganda; even when it reflects your own point of view it sucks.

  • Addison

    “…A hero of another color in Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” has some people again balking at the whitewashing of a black character in a Hollywood film…”

    I supposed it was inevitable that the perpetually-slighted, under-represented, race-nannies would show up with their boycott party hats askew and their fingers wagging, but what a colossal bore…

    Jason Thomas — covered in gray/white ash, head to foot like everybody else — performed a selfless, heroic deed, and departed in a cloud of dusty anonymity. News accounts recount his testimony: He left the scene like the Lone Ranger, masked and unidentified: A Marine who helped out, reflexively, and didn’t hawk his home run ball on Ebay, or chat with Katy on the Today Show.

    Shame on those rescued souls for not pausing to reflect (twixt crashing buildings), and record Mr. Thomas’s racial profile for film-making posterity.

    It’s well documented that the film’s producers had no clue that Mr Thomas was a black man, and they’ve groveled and Mea Culpaed themselves, cork-screw fashion, half-way to China in their efforts to erase this unforgivable error. If only they could re-shoot the film — yes, that’s the ticket!!

    When will we get a clue, folks? Not everything is some enormous plot to “disrespect” the black man. Anyone who’s followed Oliver Stone’s works (See: “Platoon”) knows of his penchant for examining the Black Man’s Plight in America (cue misc scores from “Showboat”), and knows, too, that nobody (save, perhaps, Spike Lee) has afforded black actors more cinematic opportunity.

    Let’s boycott the New York Port Authority, while we’re at it, ’cause they unfairly disrespected one of the firemen who raised the flag at Ground Zero, when they commissioned a bronze that featured an African American in the mix. See, there was no black firemen in the group that reprised that Iwo Jima pictorial, but those of us who are heavily invested in “racial fairness” thought there should be one pictured anyway.

    And — get this — nobody showed up to boycott the artist when the ribbons were cut and the sheet was lifted.

  • Jay

    While some may say that Stone did this, as did others, as a way of making a profit from an American tragedy, I still think it was a good movie to make and good to expose Americans and others as well as possible to what so many people experienced that day. While no movie in all its glory could possibly capture the tragedy and experience in its entirety, this was probably the best that could have been done.

    America is a free country – those who do not want to see the movie are under no obligation to see it, for whatever reason. However, I think, as a New Yorker who was very near the collapse of the towers and felt the impact of it in my life, and knew people who lost their lives as well as people whose lives were spared miraculously, this is a movie that many people should see, just to remember where they were that morning and what they were doing, and what they first thought upon hearing the news. Just remembering what I myself was doing at the time and how I felt and reacted was enough to remind me of the heroism and bravery that should be celebrated and the tragedy and loss that should be remembered.

    I agree with Mr. Jarvis that Americans must face the evil and confront it, rather than shy away from it in our so-called politically correct ways. We need to make ourselves remember the pain and fear and anger we felt that day, and we need to take action, and we need to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.

    Let people boycott the movie for whatever reasons. I am no fan of Oliver Stone, and I certainly disagree with his beliefs in many respects, but this time, in World Trade Center, Oliver Stone did a fine job.

  • Anelie

    (Speaking of Karnes character) I guess his character was suppose to represent the courage and commitment of the US Marines, but this guy came across as nothing more than a redneck with no depth whatsoever.

    Actually, the coming across as a redneck with no depth seemed quite intentional to me. I got Stone’s point. Maybe I was the only one.

    For some people, it will always be too soon. But we have forgotten. Maybe not those who were there, but the rest of us who were soundly sleeping or on our way to another day of work have found it easy to slip back into complacency.

    What angers me most is how we can’t seem to extricate the lessons we should have learned from that day with the unending debate about the war in Iraq. It is disgraceful, how we rob the sanctity of that day by diluting it down to not much more than additional fuel for our political pundits.

    I didn’t love everything about the movie. I’m not a fan of Oliver Stone. But if it gets people back to focusing on the sheer magnitude of that day and rekindles at least the smallest inkling of the universal pull to support one another that was felt afterwards, then by all means, Hollywood, have a go at it.

    I know, by the end, I loved every person in that theater.

  • cedo

    I saw this movie… I was one of the emergency workers down there after the towers fell… unless you were there or had friends / family that perished that day… I am sorry … you really have NO idea (or would want to know for that matter) of what actually happened. This movie is an absolute insult to everyone that was murdered that day, rescue relief workers, and most of all … THE FAMILIES!! Not only is it corny as hell.. it doesn’t even exceed to do what the movie was intended for.. ” Lets make a movie about 911.. but lets not make it about 911.. lets do it in honor of heroism, strength and honor!?– Go see Gladiator then!! .. at least Russell Crowe was convincing and you felt something at the end. Do I really need Oliver Stone… to tell me what had happened that day? Does he understand that peoples families did not come home to them after waiting by the phone so desperately just to see if someone had found their loved ones. Does he know how that feels… apparently not -if he did – he would not have made this movie. Opening week contributing to charities?… that is so nice of him. Dvd’s I am sure will do fine in profits as well.

    I am a native New Yorker.. this movie was made for people in the outskirts of boomtown that are obsessed with the greatest tragedy that hit America that day. You don’t need to make this movie… plain and simple-that’s it. Is this movie too soon?? You bet your ass .. 5 years later -hey lets depict the Port Authority policemen that were trapped under the rubble and call it mmmmmm..I don’t know… WORLD TRADE CENTER! They could have been trapped coal miners for all we know watching this movie. And the dialouge with the chessey New York accents ( “hey Sarge?… Yeah ?.. Don’t go to sleep…….. OK…. Did you ever see GI Jane?…. NO… Pain is your friend … ?!?!) ….-it was hard to watch because it was just soo fake. Karnes – the ex-marine…. are you kidding me! ( should I laugh at this character or feel warm and fuzzy inside) … Nicolas Cage??.. and the whole cast for that matter… what the fuck are you thinking. Wrong depiction and feeling of what happened that day, (Maybe in your mind). Hey Oliver- you really do not know what the fuck happened here. If you tried to shed some light to what happened that day with the 2 Port Authority police officers… I give you a “C-” for trying. Otherwise you should not have tried to capture a 911 tragedy by focusing on 2 survivors that made it out. Go back to California – rewrite Alexander and all of your odd goofball movies and retire in the Hollywood sunset.

  • Georgina Clemons






    I THINK I YOUR MOVIE SHOULD BE BOYCOTTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Addison


    Excellent strategy, Georgina.

    We must punish these Hollywood bigots and send a message.

    Boycott Oliver Stone! VOTE REPUBLICAN!!

  • james

    Addison: Shame on those rescued souls for not pausing to reflect (twixt crashing buildings), and record Mr. Thomas’s racial profile for film-making posterity.

    If Sgt. Thomas had committed a crime again them, would those rescued souls have reported that he was Black?

    Addison: It’s well documented that the film’s producers had no clue that Mr Thomas was a black man, and they’ve groveled and Mea Culpaed themselves, cork-screw fashion, half-way to China in their efforts to erase this unforgivable error. If only they could re-shoot the film — yes, that’s the ticket!!

    It is well documented that the Shamberg said he had no idea Sgt. Thomas was Black. Did Sgt. David Karnes know that Sgt. Jason Thomas was Black? Does it seem too farfetched to believe that Karnes was asked to describe the rescue partner he worked with for hours? Let me see how would i have described Sgt. Thomas.

    “Sgt. Karnes, describe your rescue partner. Ah, he is tall, well muscled, dark, with short hair. Sgt. Karnes did you say dark? Are you saying he is Greek? No sir, he is a Black man.”

    Somewhat hard for Shamberg not to have discovered he is Black unless he had that inkling and avoided the direct questions that would have revealed it.

    Addision: When will we get a clue, folks? Not everything is some enormous plot to “disrespect” the black man. Anyone who’s followed Oliver Stone’s works (See: “Platoon”) knows of his penchant for examining the Black Man’s Plight in America.

    Is the issue here the Black man’s plight or portrayal of Black heroism? Oh, we get plenty of ‘poor poor pitiful Black folks’ imagery, but how much Black heroism do you see in the movies?

    Addison: Let’s boycott the New York Port Authority, while we’re at it, ’cause they unfairly disrespected one of the firemen who raised the flag at Ground Zero, when they commissioned a bronze that featured an African American in the mix. See, there was no black firemen in the group that reprised that Iwo Jima pictorial, but those of us who are heavily invested in “racial fairness” thought there should be one pictured anyway.
    And — get this — nobody showed up to boycott the artist when the ribbons were cut and the sheet was lifted.

    Actually, there was quite a bit of protest and at least one petition to remove the Black image from the statue. Are you saying that the wrong form of complaint is being suggested? Instead of a boycott, you evidently prefer that those upset by the ‘whiteout’ protest and sign petitions.

  • On September 11, 2001, my train arrived at Penn Station at 8:41 AM. I remained underground until the subway stopped at Chambers St. When I exited, I saw hell on earth.
    After seeing Stone’s WTC film, I can only say that aside from the actual dialogue of the two officers, the film was a Hollywood whitewash that could have been two men in an an avalanche or coal mining cave in movie. Pass the popcorn!
    Where was any trace of one of the darkest days in world history? It was so PClean it was revolting. Think about it: Stone never says what happened even in the epilogue. According to Mr. Stone, we were not attacked by Islamic terrorists that day; but simply, a building fell down on two nice people.

    But I thank God I can still hear the screams, see the black smoke (not pale white-grey Mr. Stone!) spewing from the towers. I remember one woman crying “He just got that job on the 85th floor. He just got it last week!” I walked away with a father who had just picked up his daughter at the day care. His anger was palpable not being able to expalin a thing to his little girl. The dialogue I heard on the street as we walked away from the towers still holds the darkness of that day. And what about the little boy who wanted to go to NYC to get his Dad? Nowhere was it mentioned the frustration of the island being closed:no one on and no one off! Remember, they had to cross the Geo Washington bridge to get to Manhatten. And what about the sirenes? The sounds were ubiquitous with ambulances, fire engines, police cars unmarked vehicles going north, south east, west covered with ash, racing back and forth for the remainder of the entire day. If these men didn’t here them then let those who fontunatley wernt there hear them if for nothing else but a tribute to all the victims and all who tried to save them.

    The confusion on no knowing what happened was devastaing. After the tower Two fell, all communications went dead. No one downtown could call anywhere , either on cell phone or land line.
    Theses are detais that I believe would have made a more solid backdrop for Stone. Seeing those faces posted by loved ones on the hospital wall was another lost oppotunity. Couldn’t he show one person actually putting one of the notices up saying “do you know my sister? she worked on the 92nd floor? ” If Mr. Stone tried to avoid melodrama, he actually made one. If he tried to avoid the tragic cliche by focusing on two individuals, he made a worse cliche, the cliche of avoiding the unversal.

  • Addison

    “…If Sgt. Thomas had committed a crime again them, would those rescued souls have reported that he was Black?”

    Make yourself happy, bro’; it’s all — everything — about race.

    It’s all about “Whitey” holding the black man down.

    There’s simply no other reasonable explanation. Hollywood, the epicenter of all disrespect for black accomplishment, must be punished.

    Boycott Hollywood.

  • Dave

    Am I the only one who saw the real meaning of what it means to survive in this movie:of the love and the courage it takes. Or did I miss the real point?

  • Nancy

    I saw the movie today and Nicholas Cage did a fantastic job of showing how a neglectful and unemotional man can influence his wife and he even admits he never smiles.

    This movie made me realize that I will never take my family and their lives for granted. When we depart one another each day, or whenever,
    we never know if we will be together again here on earth. But if we know
    our Lord, we know we will live in eternity once again.

    Like the woman who hugged John’s wife’s neck in the hospital, upset because her son was late for a meal she had made for him, we cannot
    “let the sun go down on our wrath” as the Bible says. I must carefully think about this for my own self more than anyone.

    Thanks for the website!

  • Addison

    Disregard every other message the film had to offer about the positive side of what America (and Americans) stand for, fight for, and are willing to die for.

    The only thing relevant (don’t even try to bring up another, competing issue…) is race-relations.

    Underpinning everything — from which prize you got in your Wheaties box, to who got eliminated on “American Idol” — is a discussion about race, and who’s being disrespected, disenfranchised, and held-down by “the man”.

    Whatever else happens, resist any suggestion to take responsibility for yourself, and be sure to label anybody with the temerity to make such a suggestion a “racist!”

  • TG

    No one will stop disrespecting black men and black women until they stop disrepecting themselves. And, they can begin by referring to themselves as AMERICANS and not AFRICANs (who just happen to be in America)! Everytime the first word is “AFRICAN” it diminishes their citizenship and put people in the frame of mind that they can be treated as less than real Americans.

    Before folks start hoopin’ and hollerin’, please note that I am black (and a Marine officer). Yes, I am clearly of African descent (but according to the anthropologists, we all are!). However, I am also at least a 5th generation American and lots of folks went through hell (in the 1960s alone) so that I could accrue all the benefits due me by virtue of birth.

    It was President Roosevelt who said something to the extent that there is no room in our nation for hypenated Americanism. Oohrah!!

  • Julie

    Dear Mr Jeff Jarvis and all the other participants.

    Thank you very much for this serious platform regarding Oliver Stone’s movie “World Trade Center”, which I saw two days ago. I am a female, white, catholic (at least it says so on my documents) student, doing American Studies at a University in Germany, and would like to participate or – if even luckier – give this discussion about the film a little change. Having read certain messages, I hope that neither my sex, nationality, creed nor skin-color will influence your opinions about my contribution to this blog. I do apologize for possible mistakes regarding spelling and grammar – but I AM STILL LEARNING your language.
    Though far away, I feel myself to be in a way connected to the fate of Minoru Yamasaki’s Twin Towers, since my father happened to be there, when the WTC bombings in 1993 took place and was successfully rescued (he was picked up from the roof by a helicopter). I was only once able to afford going there myself in 1997 and have felt the Towers’ loss in New York’s skyline ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
    As I said before, I happened to watch the Oliver Stone movie. —– At first I did not know what to think about this film, which keeps me quite pensive. I do not want to re-enter a discussion about faux pas (though I really do hope that the “whitening” of Marine Sgt. Thomas will not turn out to be another “Crispus Attucks” episode) or about omissions by Hollywood’s producers (And here my first question comes up: Why are you so keen on a Hollywood blockbuster offering all the facts and details? This is what I personally expect a documentary to do but not a movie.). I would like to ask you some (more) questions; perhaps your answers will be able to help me understand this film and give me practical information for my theoretical studies of the American culture.
    To be sincere, I expected the first film about 9/11 to be a typical American blockbuster. I will just name some key words to provide you with an idea: celebrating the American hero; a lot of Stars and Stripes (perhaps an overwhelming “Iwo Jima scene”); patriotism; courage; firefighters setting to work in the rubbles in an “Armageddon” kind of way (entering the scene in slow- motion with a poignant background music, shoulder-to-shoulder searching the field like inexorable machines); confirmation of the American mission (of the kind “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” Or “Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help….” Just to name Winthrop and Kennedy.); and a lot more civil religious language (as there is only Marine Sgt. Karnes shown in church and talking about “a mission” : then he seems even not to be taken seriously in this by the rescued Jimeno – here I refer to the film not to reality!!!). And here come the questions:
    Why this lack of patriotism? Why is this film so “not American” (as you already said: it could have been anywhere, there is nearly nothing hinting at terrorists and an attack)? Is this film “only” about Port Authority Police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno – or is it about Americans – or was it even made for all mankind? Does no American on this blog feel as I do? That this film has in all its “triviality” (and here I refer to the dialogues as a suitable example) tried to save us all – every single one of us – from the debris? Perhaps my feelings are due to my place in the cinema (first rows and not able to visually detach myself from the screen) but when the Towers came crushing down I got scared, bent myself in the first reaction time. I had the feeling to be buried alive with McLoughlin and Jimeno to be saved and re-taken to the light with them. Weren’t we saved all? Didn’t this film give you hope in human (and therefore perhaps not exclusively American) values? Can’t this film be seen and interpreted on a more universal level?
    Please react to this. Correct me, if needed (but please do not insult me by doing so, as I tried to handle this subject with due respect).

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  • Tim

    I saw the world trade center movie just last night.First let me say that thouse of you who paint SSGT Karnes as a nut are wrong.what is wrong with being a servant of god and loving your country.I guess you do not understand true bravery AND LOVE FOR OTHERS. I thought it was a great movie.It was sad,but the joy of being rescued was a true highlight of the movie.Get a grip.