Passion Play


There is a question that hovers over Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Is America ready for a movie about September 11? Since there have already been several documentaries on issues raised by the event (not to mention United 93), the more precise question is: Are we ready for a dramatization of the physical horror itself? Wouldn’t such a project demean the event and its victims (no matter the excellence of the production) by being nothing but another disaster movie along the lines of Earthquake and Twister?

Are we ready? I’d say we were ready on September 12, 2001, if the movie in question could convey comfort as well as excitement. I am not very keen on using art or entertainment as balm, but I also understand that there is comfort and then there is comfort. Both Schindler’s List and Life Is Beautiful were made to bring a measure of emotional bolstering to audiences appalled by the Holocaust. Both movies were based on the undeniable truth that huge crimes reveal the evil of human nature but can also evoke the response of heroism, compassion, and resolve. (This is stated explicitly and rather unnecessarily in the epilogue to WTC.) There is authentic comfort to be wrested from this truth as long as the atrocity that has incited heroism isn’t falsified or palliated.

World Trade Center turns no blind eye to the physical horror of 9/11 but deliberately does not deal with the perpetrators of it. In fact,...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.