Wednesday, August 09, 2006

World Trade Center

Today marks the opening of Oliver Stone's film "World Trade Center," which focuses on the story of survival by two Port Authority officers who were trapped beneath the towers after their collapse. The movie seems to be getting uniformly positive--if not cautious--reviews, with most praising Stone, one of the most provocative filmmakers ever, of staying true to the facts without editorializing.

I don't know if I'm going to see it. The first time I saw the preview, I felt if it had gone on another 30 seconds I might start crying. I wonder how the public will receive it, especially during a summer where we seem to prefer more lighthearted fare like "Talladega Night" and "Pirates of the Caribbean 2." Something tells me the emotions we felt on 9/11 are not ones we want to reawaken in a movie theater, if at all.

That said, 9/11 has been dealt with before in various forms of entertainment. From Pete Hamill's FOREVER and Jay McInerney's THE GOOD LIFE to Denis Leary's FX drama "Rescue Me."

"Rescue Me" is one of the most interesting shows I've seen, in that it portrays a group of firefighters still coping with the aftermath of the attacks where many of their friends and relatives died all around them. The firefighters live in blue collar communities where stoicism is assumed, and any sign of weakness is a crack in their masculinity, especially in a job that demands heroism on a daily basis. So they bury their emotions, the grief and the heartache, bottling up until it spills out like acid. Their friends, wives and children don't want men who seek therapy and write poetry, they want the Knights of the Round Table, men who bring home the bacon and leave the baggage at the door.

One scene in particular was fascinating, where one fireman, who's been writing poetry to cope with his grief, attends a counseling session with others who were affected by 9/11. Yet as he meets the other members of the group, he finds that none of them have lost anyone close in the attacks. They're merely suffering from the aftereffects. Grieving over the enormity of the sadness, just like many of us, including myself, have done. The fireman loses his patience, calling the others "babies," saying they don't know what real sorrow is. They were on the Upper East Side sipping mocha lattes while his friends were bursting into flames in front of him.

For those of us affected by 9/11, who thankfully didn't lose any loved ones, this scene hit close to home. It showed that as much as we might cry, we can never understand what others have gone through, that our tears aren't quite as heavy. And I think that's what makes Stone's film seem all the more real. Because for one of the few times in his controversial career, Stone realizes that this story, more than any other, is not his to tell.


Blogger Dave White said...

9/11 is such a tough thing to fathom. I didn't know anyone, but my family knew the priest who was the first official death in the attacks. I watched the entire day with a group of 8th graders who uttered words like "Cool." and didn't understand it's enormity until much later. (That said, I don't think I understood it until a day or two later either.) My uncle--a volunteer firefighter went into the help with the relief efforts. He's the only person I know with a piece of glass from both terrorist attacks on the WTC. We're all connected to it, and we all feel it, just some more than others. And I think that "Recue Me" reaction is probably the most real and natural that I've read or see in fiction.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Those who put themselves in harm's way for others, firemen, cops, soldiers, paramedics, know a brotherhood of pain that civilians cannot.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Jason, I'm not sure I'll see this movie either. Rescue Me is a great show, but I have trouble with it for other reasons - my husband being a firefighter the main one. It's too real for me.

But I'm not sure wounds have healed to the point where people are ready for these movies. TV is different - you can turn on lights, be distracted by your comfortable environment and, in essence, distract yourself from scenes that are a bit tough to take. A movie seen in a theatre commands your full attention and you can't escape it. I imagine it will be too hard for a lot of people.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

PS The theatres should sell kleenex with the tickets.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Rob Gregory Browne said...

Jason, I have no desire to see the movie. I don't have the emotional NY connection you do (although, like everyone else I was deeply affected by 9/11), but I have another reason for not wanting to see it:

It just looks bad.

In fact, had I not read it here, I would never have known that Oliver Stone -- whom I consider an excellent filmmaker -- had anything to do with the movie.

As for Rescue Me, which others have mentioned, I think it has managed to discuss the subject and its emotional aftermath without hammering us over the head with it -- as this movie seems to do.

But then Rescue Me is, without doubt, one of the finest dramas ever created for television.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Jason. I don't know if I'll see the movie. Sometimes I think that five years is too soon and had I lost any friends or family, I wouldn't want to see it yet. Especially not splayed on a screen with a cry inducing soundtrack. I don't know but I don't think I want to re-live the panic of thinking the world just might be coming down around me and the chaos trying to get to my apartment and the general craziness.

11:23 PM  
Blogger s.w. vaughn said...

Your post made me cry. Sandra, pass me those tissues?

Seriously, that last sentence you wrote is powerful. I think you're right. And there's no way in hell I'm seeing this movie.

6:50 PM  

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