9/11

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
9/11 Movie Poster Image
Misguided drama includes real-life attack footage.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 90 minutes

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Kids say

age 2+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Celebrates people telling each other the truth and trying to help one another. Deals briefly with issues of racism and sexism. Tries hard to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11, what that day meant to every American, and how important it is to remember what happened.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the characters are troubling. The main character is played by Charlie Sheen, who offscreen has made unusual comments about 9/11 (and has apologized for them); it's difficult to offer him or his character as a role model of any kind.

Violence

Scary, life-changing, potentially triggering footage from actual 9/11 news reports: Planes crash into the World Trade Center, the buildings crumble and fall, etc. Bloody wounds. Shouting and arguing.

Sex

A married couple kisses. Brief discussions about relationships.

Language

Strong language includes multiple uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "motherf----r," "ass," "son of a bitch," "hell."

Consumerism

Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character smokes a cigarette. A woman pops prescription pills to calm her nerves.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 9/11 is a drama about five people stuck in a World Trade Center elevator during the attacks of September 11, 2001. It's a well-meaning but ultimately misguided attempt at entertainment, and only those with an interest in all things 9/11 will want to see it. It includes hard-hitting, upsetting, real-life footage of the attacks themselves (and subsequent building collapses), as well as bloody wounds and plenty of arguing and shouting. Language is quite strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters talk about relationships, and a married couple kisses. One character smokes cigarettes; another takes prescription pills to soothe her nerves. The movie sparked controversy over the casting of Charlie Sheen, who in the past has made "truther" comments about the attacks, though he later apologized.

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What's the story?

In the movie 9/11, wealthy Wall Street trader Jeffrey Cage (Charlie Sheen) heads to the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, to finalize his divorce from Eve (Gina Gershon), even though he wants to reconcile. Bike messenger Michael (Wood Harris) is there to make a delivery, Tina (Olga Fonda) has gone to break up with her sugar daddy, and custodial engineer Eddie (Luis Guzman) is headed to unclog a toilet. All five characters are on the same elevator when the first plane hits the building, trapping them inside. At the control desk, Metzie (Whoopi Goldberg) does her best to help them. But meanwhile, their personal demons begin to emerge during the tense hours in the ever-more-precarious elevator.

Is it any good?

Not the out-and-out disaster it looked to be, this well-meaning 9/11 drama is instead overwrought and acerbic and doesn't really make the connection between its fictional situation and the real one. Using the title 9/11 is part of the problem, as that suggests a bigger-picture story than we actually get. Writer Patrick Carson also used the story for a play, entitled Elevator, which was performed in 2011; perhaps it would have been better left in that format. Director Martin Guigu's attempts to expand the story with real-life footage of the attacks is honorable but misguided.

As good as some of these actors are, the way they rush into "deeply meaningful" conversation is somewhat absurd, even though their dialogue is balanced by the occasional ordinary chit-chat. Co-producer/top-billed star Charlie Sheen tries to steal scenes from time to time, and his efforts don't add much to the whole. Some controversy arose over his casting, given his past "truther" remarks -- although, to be fair, in a more recent interview in the Hollywood Reporter, he has apologized. Bottom line? We should never forget 9/11, but it might be a good idea to forget this movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about 9/11's violence. How are the terrible real-life events of that day combined with the story's fictitious violence? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What exactly happened on 9/11? How did America and Americans react to it? How did things change afterward?

  • How does Michael, the bicycle messenger, talk about race? Why do you think this continues to be a complicated issue?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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