Making the Grades
If ever there was a topic I wish had never inspired a movie, it would be this one. It's not because I feel this subject shouldn't be dealt with. It's because I'm convinced if the horrifying events of September 11, 2001 had never happened, even Hollywood could not have come up with such a sobering concept.
Yet history has left an indelible mark, and one of the purposes of culture and art within a healthy democracy is to promote understanding... and healing. Thankfully, director Oliver Stone and his creative team have tackled this project with the goal of finding a ray of hope penetrating this dark hour.
Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena play the real life Port Authority Police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, two of only twenty people to be pulled out alive from the massive debris field left behind after the fall of the towers. Buried more than twenty feet below tons of twisted metal and massive concrete beams, they waited for twelve hours and suffered the bone splitting experience of having two more buildings fall on top of them, before being miraculously discovered by Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon) a Manhattan accountant who was also a former Marine. Literally feeling he was being called by God to look for survivors at Ground Zero, Karnes donned his old uniform and walked past the security patrols.
Meanwhile, in their New Jersey neighborhoods, the devoted wives and children of the trapped men were watching the drama unfold on TV. The script intimately chronicles the emotional rollercoaster both Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) endured with their families during that hellish day.
For some, this retelling of an occurrence still so vividly remembered, may prove too difficult to bear. However, I suspect a far greater majority will leave this movie with a sense of optimism and respect for the thousands of people who became unwilling "participants" (a word used in the film's opening titles) in this cruel act of intolerance. Fortunately, Stone avoids his typical inclination to delve into political issues, and instead focuses his lens entirely on the lives of these two policemen, their friends and relatives.
Unlike United 93 (made in 2006 as well), this production is an "easier" watch, mainly due to the positive outcome (hence it's PG-13 rating versus United's R). It also contains fewer profanities and the violence isn't quite as graphically detailed. However, don't interpret these comparisons to mean your children should follow along to the theater. Scenes of people being crushed, falling from buildings, and suffering from distress are still likely to be emotionally bothersome for both adult and teen viewers, and are probably too powerful for children -- even with the "happy" ending.
Relying on solid performances (many of the rescue workers shown are the actual police, paramedics, and firemen who were on duty that day) and simple images to re-create these momentous moments from 9/11, this film stands as a worthy memorial. While it's ironic it took a horrendous act of terrorism to create a rare movie celebrating selflessness, patriotism, and faith in God, World Trade Center at least proves and reminds us that, given the right perspective, good things can come from the worst of circumstances.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about World Trade Center.
After watching this movie, be prepared to discuss your feelings about this eventful day. Also, keep in mind that any children who witnessed these attacks are now five years older, and may have additional questions and concerns.
What makes a hero? How can you develop an attitude that looks for the best in a bad situation?