Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story

**New Chapter: World Trade Center Movie

Oliver Stone's film, World Trade Center, is an intensely personal story of survival, dedication, and love.  It follows Sergeant John McLoughlin (played by Nicholas Cage) and Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) on the day that the World Trade Center was attacked, how they bravely volunteered to enter a burning skyscraper on the verge of collapse, were trapped inside under a mountain of rubble, and kept each other alive until they were found and rescue workers finally freed them.   Surprisingly, given Stone's track record for political polemic, the film does not deal with the causes for the attack or the American government's response.  Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are never mentioned in the film.  President Bush appears for only a few seconds on a television screen as does Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  Instead, World Trade Center focuses on the two Port Authority Police officers, their wives, families, and friends, and for that reason, it is all the more powerful.

The screenplay by Andrea Berloff is brilliant in its understatement, turning the mundane concerns of family life—a son's upcoming birthday, an unfinished kitchen remodeling project, a disagreement over an unborn baby's name—into dramatic counterpoints to the officers' life-or-death struggles at Ground Zero.  Like characters in a Greek tragedy, the wives in particular are emblematic of the suffering experienced by all the survivors of 9/11, and yet they are as real as your next- door neighbors.  The only false note—if there is one—is the fanatic off-kilter gaze of Staff Sergeant David Karnes (Michael Shannon) who first locates McLoughlin and Jimeno.  The on-screen Karnes seems to fixate on revenge against the perpetrators of the attack while there are people still trapped inside the pile.

Movie Poster: World Trade Center
Movie Poster: World Trade Center

The real Will Jimeno can be seen in some of the early scenes.  In a locker- room scene in which PAPD officers are getting ready for their shift, the real Jimeno greets his cinematic alter ego and good-naturedly calls him "rookie."  Both Jimeno and McLoughlin, as well as their wives, participated in the making of the film.  Both men have retired from the PAPD, Jimeno as a detective, McLoughlin as a lieutenant.

For many of those affected by the events of 9/11, viewing World Trade Center will be difficult and for some, even damaging.  But like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 will live on in our collective memories, like psychic scar tissue that will never completely fade.  Hopefully this film will keep this important event from becoming a dry chapter in a history book and remind the world that it was also about people—how they suffered, survived, and against all odds, thrived.


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