Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Following Alexander with a straightforward, conspiracy-free 9/11 story — the improbable rescue and rehabilitation of Port Authority police officers from World Trade Center rubble — might’ve seemed a ploy for Oliver Stone to regain relevance.
But while different from Stone’s usual ideas, 2006’s World Trade Center was far from an impersonal project for professional atonement.
The power of broadly defined faith, whether love for a deity or spouse, to sustain in times of crisis propelled a movie saturated with spirituality — although not to the point of becoming a religious tract.
The honesty of human connection, not the tendency to linger on tragedy, prevailed in World Trade Center — from the eerie stillness of waiting for word on a loved one to the symbiotic survival of trapped men.
They are Port Authority officers John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), who survived Tower One’s collapse by jumping into the concourse area as it fell. Trapped in an ashen hell of protruding metal, sparking wires, eruptive fires and body-pinning concrete slabs, the duo wills each other to survive.
Cage and Pena excel as thoughtful men contemplating and confronting unfinished business at home (with wives played by Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal) — personified by their memories and hallucinations of their existence.
World Trade Center is incredibly moving en route to a similar conclusion as United 93 — heroism without aspirations to greatness. It was the decade’s second excellent attempt to dive headlong into the harrowing horror and hope of 9/11’s specific events.