World Trade Center (2006)

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Released 13-Feb-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Oliver Stone
Audio Commentary-real-life survivor Will Jimeno and rescuers Scott Strauss, J
Deleted Scenes-Deleted/Extended Scenes with optional commentary
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 123:51
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Oliver Stone
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Nicholas Cage
Maria Bello
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Connor Paolo
Michael Pena
Anthony Piccininni
Alexa Gerasimovich
Morgan Flynn
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Craig Armstrong


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.1 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    A general hue and cry went up when it was announced that there would be a major Hollywood movie called World Trade Center. It was too early, some said, a criticism that Paul Greengrass had met when planning his own United 93.

    An even greater concern was that the man at the helm, Oliver Stone, was noted for his controversial takes on history and many expected that the film would be a paranoia drenched slice of conspiracy theory.

    The nay-sayers shouldn't have worried, for World Trade Center is a dignified and respectful movie which eschews the big picture and instead concentrates on a few little stories that exemplify the human spirit. Stone is reined-in, perhaps as never before, and delivers a genuine drama without hyperbole or flashy theatrics and film techniques that made films like Any Given Sunday so tiring, albeit exciting.

    World Trade Center is the true story of two police officers trapped under the twin towers. Essentially there are three stories. Firstly there are the trapped cops themselves, Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and William Jimeno (Michael Pena). They are working the morning shift when the first tower is hit and race to the scene. Jimeno is a rookie whereas McLoughlin is an experienced cop who commands his men with serious intent and purpose. He is not well liked, he tells Jimeno, because he doesn't smile a lot.

    Without having taken a step up the towers the men are trapped in the concourse below tower one by the debris of tower two. Trapped is the apt description for not only are they surrounded by rubble but both are pinned beneath masonry and unable to move. Jimeno can see the light from the outside world far above but he can't see McLoughlin who is trapped some twenty feet below. He can't see him but the pair can talk and much of the movie is taken up with the conversations of these two men as they talk about life and family and try to stay awake. Sleep, says McLoughlin, leads to death.

    Realizing the difficulty of keeping an audience entertained with the conversation of two men trapped in the dark, Stone introduces two other story elements. There is the family of both men, including Maria Bello as McLoughlin's wife, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the pregnant wife of Jimeno. We share their fears and hopes as they wait to hear news emerge from Ground Zero. Finally, there are the rescuers who risk their own lives digging and squeezing through unstable rubble to try to get the men out. As an end title card says, there were only 20 people pulled alive from Ground Zero.

    Despite the lack of a wide canvas World Trade Center is a fitting tribute to the men and women who risked their own lives to save others. The film opened to mainly good reviews, although it attracted criticism from conspiracy theorists who had regarded Stone as their poster boy. Reactions from the families were also mixed as some felt that their loved ones were given short shrift. However, the need to compress a lengthy rescue period into a two hour drama necessitated a few short cuts. To the average viewer these issues are irrelevant. The real question is whether it works as a drama. It does.

    Stone coaxes quality performances from the leads and creates a real sense of tension as to whether these characters live or die. It is superbly shot and the CGI work of the towers is seamlessly integrated into the film. Cage is a commanding presence despite the fact that for the majority of the movie only his dust grimed head can be seen. The female leads are also excellent particularly as they are required to be distraught throughout the movie without the benefit of rubble pressing on them. The only miss-step is the too straight reading given to Dave Karnes, the former marine who drove straight to New York after hearing the news (only stopping for a buzz cut). His character typifies the military response to the tragedy when he decides to rejoin the marines at the end, saying "they are going to need a lot of good boys to avenge this". It is one of the few notes of flag waving in this otherwise apolitical movie.

    The film comes highly recommended as a study of heroism in the face of the extraordinary. As Jimeno points out in the excellent commentary which accompanies this film, the real heroes are the men who went down the hole to rescue them. After all, the cops had no choice about being buried but the rescuers did have to choose to put their own safety concerns aside to get them out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    World Trade Center was shot on 35mm film at an original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It comes to DVD in a 1.78:1 transfer that is 16x9 enhanced.

    Stone had access to big money in the making of the film and it certainly looks the part. The cinematography of Seamus McGarvey is crisp and clean and the DVD transfer captures that immaculate look. There are no artefacts on the print. I could detect the merest hint of compression in a few scenes where the dust was spiralling around in beams of light but otherwise this is as close to impeccable a transfer as you could get.

    The black levels are deep and inky which is crucial in a film where darkness plays such a key part.

    There are a range of subtitles on offer including English for the Hearing Impaired which gives a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    World Trade Center comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kb/s) soundtrack as well as a 2.0 commentary track.

    The main soundtrack is an excellent, expansive mix. As you might expect from a film about collapsing buildings the surrounds and the subwoofer get to do their thing. Each collapse, as well as the occasional rubble shift, is delivered with ear-shattering precision and clarity. There is a real depth to the mix and it is often possible to pick out the sound of individual rubble falling rather than just a wall of rock.

    The only criticism is that of realism. Cage and Pena are trapped and have their mouths filled with dust and debris. Realistically, they mumble at times and keen listening is required in the softer moments. Otherwise the dialogue is clearly rendered.

    The music is by Craig Armstrong and he uses very subtle, minimalist piano and string refrains to undercut the action and convey the tragedy and solemnity of the occasion.

    Audio sync is perfect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by real-life survivor Will Jimeno and rescuers Scott Strauss, John Busching, and Paddy McGee.

    This is an excellent and engrossing commentary from the real people involved in the rescue as well as one of the survivors. Jimeno talks about all the moments of the film in particular the sad times when he watched friends and colleagues die. He gives an insight into the real events which, he is pleased to say, do not vary greatly in the film.

    Jimeno had a small part in the film as a cop. The rescuers are able to give their insight into what was happening topside as they struggled with their own fears. Each thought that going down the hole was something they had to do but each questioned whether they would ever make it out alive.

    All say that the real men were far more compacted in rubble and the working space was far more tight than necessarily depicted in the film. Jimeno relates that he didn't know the towers had fallen until he got out but that he knew straight away that there had been a terrorist attack. He thought America was at war.

    The commentary is deeply moving at times as the men can't hide their sadness that so few people could be rescued.

Audio Commentary - Director Oliver Stone

    Oliver Stone is no livewire but he gives an entertaining commentary on the film. He describes the on-screen action in a way that may not be necessary but also takes us behind the filmmaking process. Filming was difficult due to the tight locations in which the were working and the need to ensure that the cinematography down the hole reflected the darkness of the pit without swallowing the actors.

    Stone acknowledges the people who feared that he would bring conspiracy theories to the fore but he says that he just wanted to tell a simple story. He wanted to ensure that it was as apolitical as possible. Interestingly, he says that his aim was to give enough of the horror to make the film real but also not to dwell on it in a way that would turn off audiences.

Deleted Scenes

    There are several deleted scenes, given a slightly disinterested commentary by Stone. Aside from pacing reasons there were a few moments that were kept out as they were seen to be too horrific.

    One scene was interesting from a factual viewpoint. In the film the men are alone until they hear the marine calling out. In real life, as Jimeno explains, another voice was heard many hours earlier. They called out to the person who asked if a certain person was down there. When Jimeno said "no" the person moved off leaving Jimeno feeling they had been abandoned. Stone left it out to concentrate on the people who did help and not those who, for whatever reason, did not.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film has come out in Region 1 in a variety of editions. The Special Edition comes with extra features on a second disc. According to IMDB these features are also on the single disc edition. Aside from the extras above these are:

    For fans of the movie the Region 1 edition may be the best although it is not clear what extras will be included on the High Definition versions of the film, which are due out late in March 2007. Those with cutting edge equipment might want to hold out.

Summary

    World Trade Center has a host of characters yet it is one of Oliver Stone's most personal films. It is a quality film and the high production values have transferred over to DVD.

    The extras are engaging and moving.

    A worthy and quality film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

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