This complex and sensitive portrayal of the quagmire around a government fund to compensate victims of 9/11 is bolstered by excellent casting and a measured pace. Like those tasked with disbursing the fund, Worth asks the impossible question of what an individual life is worth. But, as fund "Special Master" Ken Feinberg tells his law class at Georgetown, it's a legal question, not a philosophical one. That's where Keaton's Feinberg goes wrong -- in trying to treat the "claimants" (family members who lost loved ones in 9/11) -- objectively, as numbers in a formula. Keaton does a stellar job showing Feinberg evolve from overly-confident DC insider to compassionate, humbled crusader, and he's surrounded by an excellent supporting cast who also go through their own individual transformations over the course of the film. This is in addition to the casting of a dozen or so wholly credible "claimants" who give at turns tearful, at turns angry, monologues almost directly to the camera about the loved ones they've lost.
In an interesting choice, the faces of a couple of characters who go on to die in 9/11 are purposefully not shown, underscoring that the focus here is on the aftermath. This true story-inspired tale isn't an easy one to tell or to relive. It could even prove too difficult to watch for some families of 9/11 victims. Director Sara Colangelo (The Kindergarten Teacher) frequently plays scenes off each other, a technique at times overly obvious but still effective. For example, in one matched pair, Keaton's character is fending off lawyerly "wolves" seeking more money for their wealthy clients while his partner is in a room with a group of politely appreciative Spanish-speaking families of victims. The film recreates the emotion of those days, the way it felt the whole world was glued, speechless, to their television sets. Still, the film's power lies not in graphic images, though there are a few. Rather, the quiet force of Worth lies in its rendering of the suffering of every single person involved, except notably some politicians and DC power brokers.