Does Oliver Stone's World Trade Towers Movie Cut Out the Moral Message?
A long article on the film in Newsweek quotes Mr. Stone: "The consequences of 9/11 are enormous to this world, not just to America." This is true; 9/11 changed world history. But he goes on: "This movie is made for the world, and if it's what I hope it to be, it transcends 9/11. It's about anybody, anywhere, who feels the taste of death, whether it was a bombing in Madrid or an earthquake or a tsunami" (emphasis added). Well, now we are in a different place. The world-changing character of 9/11 does not rest on the number of people who "felt the taste of death." Hundreds of thousands more people died in the December 2004 tsunami. It was a tragic event, but not a world-changing one. Unless you are an animist inclined to attribute moral significance to random acts of nature, a tsunami is "value-free." It just happened. But 9/11 didn't just happen. As "United 93" makes explicit, 9/11 happened because determined men with a plan boarded those planes and carried out their plan.
"World Trade Center" tells a different story. It is the story of 9/11 as experienced by the men on the ground as it occurred. As far as it goes, it does ample justice to the rescue and emergency workers who were present on that day. They did not know, could not know, who brought down the towers or why. The question is whether "World Trade Center" goes far enough when it comes to shaping our understanding of what happened.
One fact about the movie that has received considerable mention already is that it screened well with teenagers, many of whom were too young to perceive clearly what was done five years ago next month in New York and Washington. Will they come away from the film thinking of that day as a tragedy or as an atrocity? Mr. Stone would seem to prefer the former. But universalizing the meaning of the movie risks trivializing it. New York was not hit by an earthquake on September 11, 2001. . . . .