There's so much weirdness bothering me even before the decision to go see the film. Oliver Stone doing a 9/11 movie? What were they thinking? Trailers for a second Nicholas Cage film opening in a few weeks, which seems disquieting with Cage being headlined in a 9/11 film -- as opposed to United 93 which carefully avoided using any recognizable actors. Who was in charge of scheduling? Is five years out "sufficient" time for a movie about Ground Zero at the World Trade Center?
Normally we don't do movies in the middle of Mrs. Dr. Phil's work week. The decision to go on Thursday 10 August 2006 was simply based on the fact that we had to attend a dinner for one of Mrs. Dr. Phil's colleagues leaving their job. The Applebee's restaurant we were at is literally across the street from Studio 28, our preferred movie plex.
So, it's on to...
NO REAL SPOILERS HERE...
World Trade Center [PG-13]
This is not the film you might expect it to be. It is low key and powerful and very good. It also will raise issues and questions that you might not have thought about regarding the loss of the Twin Towers. I have to say that I like it very much, even though some of the characters do or say things which are annoying. Real life isn't scripted and rewritten before people speak either.
Because of the people we're following, Stone does not dwell on the actual attacks themselves. They are shadows which play on our mind. We are privy, having lived through the mind numbing 24-hour news coverage of 9/11, to a great many things these Port Authority policemen do not know. As in United 93, this insider knowledge in no way detracts from the film, though if you don't know or recall the events so well, then some of the heartbreaking confusion won't resonate.
It becomes clear early on that each scene is separated by a fade to black. The length of time of black screen isn't consistent and the black begins to take on a character of its own. The separation allows us some room to shift gears. This isn't a rapid-fire music video style editing job.
It was not obvious to us most of the time which shots of New York were done with stock footage and which had the WTC added in. The sets, both whole and wrecked, are well done. It's the sound, though, which warrants special praise. It becomes a sinister character of its own as things go from bad to worse. Ten or eleven seconds has never seemed so terrifying before.
And I needn't have worried about Nicolas Cage. This isn't the generic Nick Cage you've seen in so many action and character movies. He's not so much an unidentifiable chameleon, like a Gary Oldman in so many movies, as adapting a very specific look and distinctive New York accent.
The smallish audience applauded and I even heard a few cheers as the rescuers brought out the last of the survivors. I think the 9/11 story at Ground Zero has redefined for some Americans what our collective concept of a "hero" is. And the "endnotes" to the film are heartbreaking in their own right -- and given without the Oliver Stone spin or preachiness.
An Unfortunate Ending
But the moment that the credits began to roll, everyone leapt to their feet and started filing out. Everyone except Mr. & Mrs. Dr. Phil. However, a good third of those leaving didn't leave instantly, standing in the aisles and discussing what they'd just seen and some lurking around the exit ramp watching some of the credits. Soon however, we were alone.
About the time they started rolling the more detailed credits, things started to go wrong. First the sound ended. A few seconds later we began to get the obnoxious advertising audio they run between films. I shouted out, but no one appeared to be in the projection booth. It's a 20 screen theatre -- they don't use 20 projectionists.
Ten seconds later the screen went to black and they switched to their video projection advertising loop.
Huh? We don't get to see all the credits? I thought I paid full price, don't I get the full movie?
I tracked down the manager and explained that it isn't all right to NOT show the credits to a film. And most certainly it is disrespectful to mess with the credits of a sensitive historical film. The manager immediately got on his radio and asked if there was a problem with the film in Theatre 5? No. Was the film shut off early? Yes -- and the projectionist didn't know why.
We were given free passes to another movie at Studio 28. This isn't about "getting our money back" to get something for nothing. This is about a measured punishment to keep this and all movie theatres vigilant about showing the ENTIRE film. Once in the U.P. we made them put the last reel back on and show all the credits to the Clint Eastwood movie that they began to rewind the very moment the credits began to roll. The projectionist was surprised anyone was watching the credits. Don't mess with my man Clint...
This is the first time this problem has surfaced at Studio 28 that we could remember and it's good they owned up to the problem right away. But I do someday want to see the remaining credits some time and see what film archives they used and which special effects houses.