A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film isn't appropriate for younger kids and may be too much for sensitive teens. It includes explicit images of the World Trade Center Towers collapsing, mostly from inside the buildings (with crashing/exploding sound effects). It also features potentially upsetting television footage and recreations of Ground Zero, the air filled with smoke and dust, with fires burning. Early on, you see a body falling from a tower (and cops' horrified reactions); later, several men are crushed by the falling building; one dies on screen, gurgling blood from his mouth as another observes (again, horrified). At the hospital the victims' injuries are visible (broken limbs, bloody faces). Family members waiting for news are tense and sad, and some argue; a woman cries about her lost son; a pregnant woman vomits; some characters smoke cigarettes and use occasional harsh language.
What's the story?
"Based on actual accounts of surviving participants," WORLD TRADE CENTER builds on details. Port Authority Police Department Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage,) begins a routine day on 9/11, then leads his team on a mission to help people escape the World Trade Center, but the towers fall and trap him and rookie cop Will Jimeno (Michael Pena). Injured, they hang on for long hours. The survivors' waiting comprises much of the film, their fear and character exposed in tight close-ups. Unable to move, their heroism is defined by their pain and fortitude, rather than comic-booky action. We also see TV viewers around the world, shocked at the destruction, and worried families including Will and John's. John and Will essentially talk each other into staying awake, and there is a supremely subjective moment experienced by Will -- the film's effort to reconstruct what went on in the men's minds during this most grueling experience. In another subplot, we see Ground Zero through the eyes of hardnosed Marine Dave Karnes (Michael Shannon), who, according to an epigraph, goes on to seek "vengeance" during two tours in Iraq.
Is it any good?
While it may not be time for all viewers to see the film’s images of devastation, others will appreciate the uplifting point as it focuses on a small group of people to recount a vast tragedy. September 11th remains a difficult day to remember, even as it's increasingly mythologized and recast in media images.
Will and John's story is more effective than the heavy-handed representation of Marine Dave Karnes. A kind of military guardian angel, he looks at Ground Zero and proclaims, "It's like God made a curtain with the smoke, shielding us from what were not ready to see." It's an outsized, quintessentially Stoneian moment (think: Willem Dafoe dying with arms outstretched in Platoon), resolutely apolitical and burdened with mythic meaning).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship that develops between the two survivors, John and Will: How do they keep each other alive by sharing personal stories? How does the community get through the waiting and grieving? How do the kids react to their fathers' unknown status? How do their mothers answer their questions in ways that are honest and also comforting?
Families can also talk about their own recollections of the day and answer any questions kids may have about the tragic events.
- In theaters: August 9, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: December 12, 2006
- Cast: Maria Bello, Michael Pena, Nicolas Cage
- Director: Oliver Stone
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 125 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language
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