Release date: August 9th, 2006
Running time: 129 minutes
Director: Oliver Stone
Writers: Andrea Berloff, John McLoughlin, Donna McLoughlin, William Jimeno, Alison Jimeno
Composer: Craig Armstrong
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Port Authority Police Dept. Sgt. John McLoughlin was nowhere near the World Trade Center when Flight 11 made impact with the North Tower, but like many others, he raced there to try to save as many lives as possible.
William J. Jimeno was a rookie, working at the Port Authority Bus Terminal when the shadow of Flight 11 passed over him seconds before it hit the tower. When he returned to the station, McLoughlin would round him up along with 3 other Port Authority officers, Antonio Rodrigues, Dominick Pezullo and Chris Amoroso and together with 20 other police officers, they rode their bus to midtown Manhattan where thick black smoke was billowing out of the gaping wound of Tower 1.
What happened to them in the following 21 hours became the focus of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center with Nicolas Cage portraying McLoughlin and Michael Pena as Jimeno. As they make the turn on Barclay and head down West Broadway they catch their first glimpse of the devastation.
Paper strewn from high up in the towers cascade down onto the streets below together with other pieces of furniture and fittings from the offices as well as parts from the planes. A man lays critically wounded on the street and is tended to by a medical team and passers by surrounded him, but nothing prepares them for the sight immediately outside the towers themselves with body parts and jumpers raining down around them.
Closer to the site we learn that the Children’s Discovery Center at 5 World Trade Center has already been evacuated [ABC New covered the story here] but now McLoughlin, who was with the emergency services when the towers were bombed in ’93, has to come up with a plan of how to evacuate thousands of people from those same towers again, but with a completely different scenario.
McLoughlin leads the men to Building 5 where they suit up and take with them whatever equipment they need to help people to breathe. They make their way through the concourse area and pass evacuees heading out of the World Trade Center complex, but they’re heading into Tower 1, still unaware that Tower 2 has also been hit.
It’s now 9:59:04am and McLoughlin is radioing to find out if something is going on with Tower 2 and that’s when the most unprecedented thing happens. Tower 2, with its 110 floors, collapses to the ground in ten seconds. McLoughlin and the men take cover in an elevator shaft. Amoroso falls and is lost in the showering of destruction that ensues in such a short time and Rodrigues runs but doesn’t make it to the shaft.
McLoughlin opens his eyes to darkness and hears the groaning of rubble above him. He’s pinned, his legs are crushed and although he can hear the other men, he can’t see them. From here on in, Stone’s story of the will to survive in the worst of situations takes over. For the next hour and a half, it’s an unbearable, terrifying and claustrophobic account of what they suffered down there.
Pezullo, who manages to free himself after the initial collapse, tries to help the others, but as the North Tower collapses at 10:28:31am, he’s killed by falling debris. Jimeno and McLoughlin are now buried 30 feet beneath the surface and face an unimaginable and agonizing wait to be rescued in what the media would call Ground Zero.
While Stone closes in on a story about the men and women that fought to save lives that day, World Trade Center honours those who were lost doing exactly that. In many ways it’s a fitting film to capture the heroism and acts of kindness and compassion that we see when a horror like this descends on us, but in many other ways it’s a painful film to watch precisely because for the most part it keeps us at Ground Zero, a place no soul should have ever witnessed, experienced or died at.
Around 10:30pm U.S. Marines Sergeant Jason Thomas and Staff Sergeant Dave Karnes heard the cries for help and located the pair. Jimeno was cut free from the rubble at 11pm that night, but as McLoughlin was further down, his rescue would come just after 7am on September 12th, 21 hours after the South Tower collapsed.
At first it was believed that McLoughlin was the last person to be pulled alive from the 3 billion pounds of rubble, but Genelle McMillan, a Trinidadian who worked on the 64th floor of the North Tower, was pulled 27 hours after the collapse. The stories of these survivors and heroes are a comfort to us all; to know that even in face of such adversity when everything else falls, hope survives.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .