World Trade Centre… or not really? By Jerzy Plazewski

in 63rd Venice International Film Festival

by Jerzy Plazewski

The most important event of the 21 st Century has already taken place – in New York on September 11th, 2001. This new Sarajevo , the beginning of a war against terrorism, is significant not only because of 2700 death casualties. An even higher number of victims were reported on each of the 63 days of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, including both insurgents and civilians, bombed and executed. Nevertheless, it did not gain comparable publicity around the world.

The World Trade Centre is today a premonition of the fact that the process of eliminating borders involving free movement of people, free exchange, internationalisation of relations between nations, races, and creeds is over. Whose fault is it? Is only aggressive Islam to blame?

Oliver Stone’s World Trade Centre disappoints, chiefly as it does not relate in any way to the actual scale of the problem. Having gained a lot of publicity worldwide, it suffers the most – I recon – from a too general title. The name World Trade Centre promised something more than just a rescue action of three individuals trapped inside the ruins, who had not even had a chance to help anyone. In this respect, a very modest (and underestimated) Flight 93 by Greengrass at least provided us with a quasi-documentary reflection upon the external course of events. Here, after a very efficient reconstruction of the first hour after the attack (apt incorporation of the explosion into the landscape of the city), Stone does not even try to look at the rescue action as a whole, which was, after all, very closely related to the fate of two casualties – port authority policemen.

I respect Stone for constantly seeking topics in the most recent history, which is a rather unusual type of attitude in Hollywood . However, ambitious subjects bring about an additional risk, which is not there in the case of the emotional lives of ordinary people, i.e. minimisation of distances. In a way it is about focusing on a broken flower, when the entire forest has been cut down. Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) makes an impression of being disciplined prior to and deeply humane after the catastrophe. He is neither a physiatrist, nor a physician attempting to affect his subordinates (which he manages to achieve in 50%). This can be read from his face covered with dust, which the cameraman (Seamus McGarvey) manages to show us (in spite of total darkness in the ruins?). Also the sound (Kelly Daran) plays a more significant role than it usually does, since the tone of the sound and its intensity can stand for life or death. Good.

Nevertheless, World Trade Centre which has been directed extremely professionally, very often goes beyond a direct report, presenting the reaction of the victims’ families (what was strongly rejected by Greengrass in his Flight 93 ). Indeed, it is not difficult to touch the audience with the pregnancy of the wife of one of the victims, or the image of toys of another one’s kid. However, it does not contribute much to the global World Trade Centre problem.

Naturally, Stone’s movie should enjoy enormous commercial success. It is a must to see, because of its fast action, brilliant and smooth editing, realistic scenography. But to fully satisfy Stone – I’d have a heretic proposal – that shall most definitely not be put into practice either in Poland or anywhere else (due to legal, but chiefly commercial reasons) – I propose to change the title of the movie from World Trade Centre to …any given other.