Center of the World [2001]

Regardless of whether it was "too early" in 2006 to dramatize the events of September 11th, 2001, World Trade Center succeeds as a tribute to the courage and sacrifice of those who served at "ground zero" in the wake of terrorist attacks on the WTC's twin towers in New York City. Removed from the politics of war and terrorism (yet still, like all films, inherently political in expressing its point of view), Oliver Stone's potent drama focuses on the nightmarish ordeal, and subsequent rescue, of Port Authority policemen John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), who were buried deeply within the rubble of the WTC after the twin towers collapsed. Granted, it's only the film's historical context that distinguishes it from any other dramatic rescue story, but in focusing on the goodness of humanity in response to the evil of terrorists who remain unnamed and off-screen, Stone and first-time screenwriter Andrea Berloff create an emotional context as powerful as anything Stone has directed since Platoon. Even as he resorts to some questionable tactics typically lacking in subtlety, Stone refrains from much of the blunt-force filmmaking that has made him a critical punching bag, rising to this challenging occasion with a heartfelt and deeply American portrait of unity - personal, familial, and national. Flaws and all, World Trade Center serves an honorable purpose, reminding us all that for those fleeting days in September 2001, America showed its best face to a sympathetic world. --Jeff Shannon

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