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World Trade Center

Oliver Stone’s Ruins
The Famously Leftist Director Succumbs To The War Machine
By Cole Smithey

Oliver Stone has gone against his famous character to make a syrupy and gruelingly flat cinematic ode to two brave policemen (John McLoughlin and William Jimeno) who survived being buried under 20 feet of rubble in the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. With an astonishingly accurate production design by Jan Roelfs, Stone attempts to reveal the inner psyche of the survivors during their darkest hours while exemplifying the turmoil that their families suffered. But Stone dampens the universal survivor story with meek brush strokes aimed at supporting the right wing’s revenge mentality that ran amok after the 9/11 attack. Worse than film’s inability to create an eventful dramatic arc is the rushed timing of a movie that waves a flag in the face of continuing American war atrocities that have sent hundreds of thousands of civilians to their death since 9/11. Nevertheless strong performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Will Jimeno’s pregnant wife, and Michael Shannon, as a mentally unbalanced Marine, add much needed character contrast to the movie.

For all of the film’s evasive insistence that it steer of politics Stone can’t avoid sprinkling in mixed messages of perplexed political subtext. We first meet ex-marine Staff Sergeant Karnes (Michael Shannon) as he communicates with God in a Connecticut church. Karnes perceives that God tells him to go to New York to help with the disaster relief so he illegally dons his marine fatigues and gate crashes the collapse site as a lone marine rescuer. Karnes carefully steps around the site at ground zero repeatedly calling out for any survivor make a sound. He’s soon joined by another combat-dressed marine on the same mission. The story seems to say, were it not for some loopy marine on a personal mission from God, that John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno would have surely perished since no other responders yet dared to search the still-smoking rubble.

Oliver Stone made his name as a firebrand director based on consciously liberal-minded films such as "Salvador," "Platoon," "Born On The Fourth Of July," "J.F.K." and "Nixon." Why then would Stone suppress his leftist instincts to tell an intrinsically politically charged story with barely any reference to fundamental local, national and governmental mistakes, intentional or otherwise, that leveraged a crime scene into cause for war without a thorough investigation.

Twenty people were pulled out of the World Trade Center’s debris and saved.

Rated PG-13, 129 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)

August 9, 2006 in Drama | Permalink