World Trade Center: 2-Disc Commemorative Edition (HD DVD) (2006)
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Will Jimeno, Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee
Audio Commentary-Oliver Stone (Director)
Featurette-Making Of-(53:29) HD
Featurette-Common Sacrifice (54:27) HD
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Building Ground Zero (25:09) HD
Featurette-Visual and Special Effects (12:08) HD
Featurette-Oliver Stone's New York (24:29) HD
Interviews-Crew-Q & A with Oliver Stone (13:06)
Theatrical Trailer-(2:26) HD
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Oliver Stone|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Oliver Stone is viewed by many as a magnet for political controversy. With controversial films like JFK and Platoon in his catalogue it's hardly surprising, however, World Trade Center is an unexpectedly emotional diversion for the director, one that tastefully conveys sensitive events that are still very fresh in the minds of many people.
Monday September 11th, 2001 begins as any normal early morning would in New York City. Joggers are out in the park and markets are preparing for the day's trading. Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Peņa) rises early for his 5am day shift and drives into the city, where he dons the uniform and meets his colleagues for their morning briefing. Here, they're allocated their beats for the day by Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage), and the men head out to their designated area during the busy rush hour as the city's population is commuting to work. Soon, the officers are all summoned back to base again and informed of a passenger plane having collided with one of the towers of the World Trade Center. A squad of men is assembled and freighted down to the site at speed, to assist in the evacuation. The closer the men get to the towers, the more apparent the catastrophe becomes, so a number of the men become hesitant to enter the buildings. McLoughlin asks for volunteers to go in with him, so that they might help anyone who is trapped. Will Jimeno is first to step forward, followed by Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez) and a handful of other colleagues, and they set off into the admin centre of the building to gather breathing equipment for the rescue.
Before they can begin to help anyone, the first tower collapses and McLoughlin, Jimeno and Pezzulo are trapped under dense rubble near an elevator shaft, on the concourse level between the towers.
From here, Oliver Stone weaves multiple story arcs, following the rescue effort above and the pain and doubt on the part of their wives Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Donna McLaughlin (Maria Bello). In addition to this we follow a former marine turned accountant, Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon) who walks out of his office job that morning, shaves his head, dusts off his uniform and heads to ground zero to look for survivors. Meanwhile, the men stuck under the debris must try to stay awake and lucid despite intensely painful internal injuries.
Although they share very few actual scenes together, Nicholas Cage and Maria Bello make a believable, loving married couple. Michael Peņa (Crash) captures Jimeno's larger than life personality perfectly, in fact the real Will Jimeno was quite involved in the project and can be seen throughout the extra material, as well as a small role in the film as one of the Port Authority cops.
Scott Strauss, a rescue worker at ground zero who participated in the film's production as an unpaid consultant (he is played by Stephen Dorff in the film), initially expressed fears that the film was going to be a 'Hollywoodised' vision of 9/11, "...like a bad Godzilla movie" he said. But, like many other critics, his opinions soon changed when he realised the film's focus was on the rescue, not the terrorists, and he was also comforted by Oliver Stone's strict attention to detail. For me personally, World Trade Center is rare for a Hollywood film in that it is a genuinely moving drama that doesn't quickly descend into a sloppy, schmaltzy, melodramatic mess. Oliver Stone's approach here is supremely tasteful, free of hype or political posturing, and successfully puts a heroic human face to the horrific events of that day. This is highly recommended.
The standard definition, single disc version was very well reviewed by my colleague TrevorD, here.
If you're interested in some more 9/11 reading, you may like to have a look at my review of the worthwhile documentary 9/11: The Falling Man.
This video transfer is certainly up to the standard I would expect from such a recent production. There are no negative issues to report, in fact I wouldn't hesitate to rate this as a five-star transfer.
The 1080p transfer has been framed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, very tight to the frame. I suspect the matte has been opened a little from the film's 1.85:1 theatrical exhibition. The VC-1 video compression codec has been applied.
This is a very sharp, highly detailed image. I noted time codes of some scenes that particularly impressed me in this regard, especially the detail in the architecture at 7:36, but as a whole this transfer is very film-like. The masses of falling debris and dust that fill the screen in some scenes are very realistically presented. The flashback or hallucinatory scenes, as well as the New York sunrise, are intentionally softened to separate them from the rest of the film, I believe.
Shadow detail is exemplary for such a dark film. More than a quarter of the film is situated under many feet of rubble and debris while the two surviving men are trapped. During this time there are never any instances where objects or characters are hard to discern on screen. Scenes under the rubble, such as at 25:55, never descend into a frustrating inky blackness. 3:2 pulldown judder was a little pronounced on my equipment this time, which may be due to the sheer clarity present in the image.
The film's colour scheme is rich and vibrant in the suburbs, but becomes rather washed out as we are taken closer to ground zero. Skin tones are particularly realistic.
There are no compression issues at all, nor are there any film artefacts of concern. A slight wash of film grain can be seen in some scenes more than others, but this is at a perfectly acceptable level. I noticed some edginess in the detail of the towers in a perspective shot at 8:34, but this may be due to the slightly limited resolution of my display.
An English subtitle stream is available and is relatively accurate to the spoken word. Subtitles are also provided for the extras, including the audio commentaries.
Disc one is dual layered (HD-30), while disc two appears to be single layered (HD-15).
There are five soundtracks accompanying this film, two of which are audio commentaries. The default soundtrack is decided by the viewer's selection on an initial language select menu that loads automatically. The selection is not memorised by the player for future playback. The film's original English soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, as are foreign language dubs in German and French.
The English dialogue is always distinct and easy to make out above noisy effects and the like. The ADR is completely seamless and audio sync is perfect.
The use of the surround channels is a little conservative, but we must remember that this is a drama rather than an action-oriented film. The rear channels come into effect to add realism to explosions and falling rubble, as well as subtle atmospherics, such as inside the hole itself. Voices are generally confined to the front soundstage.
The score by Craig Armstrong is sombre and emotional, with a firm, melodic piano base. A short clip of country music by Brooks & Dunn makes the only musical diversion in the film.
The subwoofer is used to add thick bottom end to the lower range of score, as well as the aforementioned falling rubble and the like. Like the surround usage, the LFE application is tasteful and not over-used.
|Surround Channel Use|
This is a great range of special features, all well made and pertinent to the film. One thing that has impressed me about Paramount HD DVD packaging is the complete absence of tacky, misleading slogans that are emblazoned on titles from other studios.
Oliver Stone is an honest speaker and goes to great lengths to point out where scenes were filmed, and whether scenes contain any CGI manipulation. Most aspects of the film making process are discussed, along with specific details about how certain scenes relate to actual events and the compromise that was reached in order to successfully convey the story. There are some lengthy pauses in the commentary at times and Stone has a habit of describing what's transpiring on screen in front of us, but this is very worthwhile listening.
Survivor Will Jimeno and emergency rescue workers Scott Strauss, John Busching and Paddy McGee take us through the events of the day and offer their expanded version of events in some scenes. There are also some valuable insights into police routines, as well as some of the reasoning behind their decisions. Hearing Will Jimeno discuss his experiences first hand as we see the events unfold on screen is really something special.
These nine scenes are available with an optional director commentary. Stone discusses the numerous test screenings and how he eventually decided to make the necessary cuts. These are presented in standard definition (MPEG2 compression) and are 16x9 enhanced, playable individually or via a play all function. Most of these are unnecessary extensions to scenes and are not missed in the final cut.
The entire second disc includes optional subtitles in English, German, French and Dutch. English subtitles are burned into the video stream at some points, to 'translate' heavily accented English voices. Special features presented in 1080p high definition (VC-1) are marked in red (HD).
This making-of is split into three parts, playable individually or via a play all function. Committing to the Story features Screenwriter Andrea Berloff, the film's producers and Oliver Stone, who discusses what appealed to him in the story. Actors Michael Peņa and Nicholas Cage reveal how they related to their real-life counterparts and what went into building the characters we see on screen. Part two, Shooting in NY and LA, deals with the logistics and politics that were involved in commencing production of the film. Part three, Closing Wounds, looks at the score and sound design.
Directed by Charles Kiselyak, this documentary is split into two parts; Rescue and Recovery, and these are playable separately or via a play all function. Subjects of the film, John and Donna McLaughlin and Will and Allison Jimeno, discuss the events of the day and what specifically transpired for them personally, touching on many points that are only hinted at in the film. Rescuers also discuss the mechanics of their efforts and how they managed to work in such restricted conditions. There are also contributions from Bellevue ICU surgeons and nurses who explain the complicated treatment and the later recovery process, revealing how very close McLaughlin came to losing both of his legs. There are some very graphic images here, but it's a riveting story as told by the people themselves, augmented with monochromatic clips from the film for reference. This is a very worthwhile extra feature.
This is a very informative featurette that looks at the set design, pre-visualisation and detail that went into constructing the complicated sets for filming. There is also some great discussion of the original building's design and how the men's location aided them in their survival.
The film makers were very conscious of not creating excessive realism while filming on location in New York, so as not to cause stress to locals who experienced the atrocity first hand. This featurette explains workarounds and CG effects that were devised in post production to add realism to the street scenes and the establishing shots of New York.
Oliver Stone guides us through the New York in which he grew up as an only child, explaining the places he remembers and the neighbourhoods one needed to avoid. The interviewer also probes Stone about his storytelling and how this environment shaped his style. There is also a brief contribution from Stone's French mother, discussing the family's bitter divorce. From his teens, we are led through Stone's service in Vietnam and his later experience at film school under Martin Scorsese, including clips from his student film Last Year in Viet Nam.
Hosted by Mark Kermode at the BAFTA lecture series in London, this 2006 interview explains Stone's intentions regarding the film's political status and emotional direction. Some attention is also given to the difficulties that were experienced in pleasing groups who were strongly opposed to the film being made.
The theatrical trailer gives a solid representation of the film's emotional angles without a hint of sensationalism.
Five in total, typical of a slightly hyped TV campaign.
There are 54 stills to scroll through using your remote, including promo shots and behind the scenes images of Oliver Stone and the cast. Jimeno and McLaughlin are also largely represented.
There are no HD DVD region coding restrictions at the moment. As with most other local HD DVD releases, ours is branded with European ratings logos. The North American release appears to be identical to ours.
The Region 4 SD DVD disc of last month barely warrants comparison, given that the entire second disc of extras is not included. If you're not HD capable, the Region 1 Commemorative Edition appears to be the way to go.
The video transfer is excellent.
The audio transfer is great.
The extras are very insightful and pertinent to the film.
|DVD||Toshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|