Coming as it does, so close to the anniversary of 9/11, Oliver Stone’s film – shown last night on Channel 4 – was sure to evoke a plethora of memories, and it didn’t disappoint in that regard.
The attacks on the World Trade Centers are still vividly etched in the minds of those of us who watched the horrendous events unfolding on TV, but what this film did was to tell the story from the point of view of those most directly involved, including of course, the two Port Authority police officers who were trapped in the rubble and around whom the majority of the film centred.
However, Stone came in for a lot of criticism when his film was released in 2006 for inaccuracies within it. He was also accused of profiteering from the tragedy and the film was boycotted by many, especially those who were the bereaved families of the hundreds of police, paramedics and fire department officers who died that day. Here’s what Wikipedia says about those contentious issues…
“The film has been accused of not providing a fair portrayal of the character and motives of rescuer Dave Karnes, a pivotal character in the film who did not cooperate in the making of the film. The film also inaccurately portrayed Jason Thomas, who joined Dave Karnes in the rescue, as white when he was really black.
“The film’s producers realized the mistake only after production began, and apologized to Thomas, whose identity had not been widely known for years after September 11. Also, on the DVD commentary, Oliver Stone refers to Jason Thomas as Mike Thomas.
“Critics of WTC say that the film inaccurately identified the rescuers who worked to free Jimeno and McLouglin, failed to accurately convey the time required to dig the men out, and understated the dangers posed to the rescuers.
“Among other things, the film failed to properly acknowledge the role of paramedic Chuck Sereika. Contrary to that which is depicted in the film, Sereika began treating and extricating Jimeno a full 20 minutes before officers from the New York City Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit arrived.”
But despite the controversy and apparent inaccuracies, the film took around $162,000,000 in its first year. And based solely on the performances of the main protagonists, it’s little wonder. Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña played the parts of John McLoughlin and William J. Jimeno respectively, and given that both actors were advised by the men themselves, we may assume that all the heart rending footage of the time the men were trapped, accurately represents events.
The anger, confusion, sadness and a multitude of other mixed emotions were also superbly parlayed into on-screen tension by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Donna and Alison, the wives of McLoughlin and Jimeno.
The fact of their not knowing for hours what had become of their husbands was agonising to watch, even in taking into account the necessity of compacting that into such a short time.
If I have any criticisms of the film though, there were times when it felt a bit God Bless Amer’ca and was fuelled with patriotic testosterone, but of course, clichés become clichés because they represent oft happening events, and if ever there was a day that called for the invoking of all that the Stars and Stripes represents, it was that day.
And with Cage and Peña touchingly rendering the alternating desperation, hope, pain and the sadness of men who believed they could well die, trapped, and with only each other to buoy their spirits, it was a film that had me wiping tears away, especially when the real-life McLoughlin and Jimeno appeared in the closing barbecue scenes. And that takes some doing for a somewhat cynical TV critic.