Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 16 News List

Too soon, too cynical, or just telling the truth?

Relatives of Sept. 11 victims say those involved in a new movie by director Oliver Stone are cashing in on the atrocity


American director Oliver Stone speaks at the 59th International film festival in Cannes May 21, 2006.


Oliver Stone has never shunned controversy in the past. But while many of the film director's projects have tackled head on sensitive subjects such as the Vietnam War, the life of Richard Nixon and the death of JFK, his attempts to drop his previous confrontational form in directing the most highly scrutinized movie of his career have already floundered.

Despite Stone's insistence that his days of deliberate provocation are behind him, World Trade Center, which opens in US cinemas next month, has divided the public, critics and academics ahead of its release.

The film, which stars Nicolas Cage as John McLoughlin, one of two New York Port Authority police officers caught up in Sept. 11, has been attacked in a way that Stone's fellow director Paul Greengrass managed to avoid in his portrayal of circumstances on the doomed Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 11 September that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Greengrass's film, United 93, stunned British audiences this year with its documentary style, as if much of it had been filmed in real time.

Paramount Pictures is marketing World Trade Center as “a human story,” and Stone is at the forefront of the studio's message. The Platoon director has already insisted that World Trade Center “is not a political film.” Also in the film are Maria Bello who plays John's wife, Donna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Allison Jimeno, wife of another police officer, Will.

The film's financial backers have also been careful not to play up brutal imagery, saying that it is the tale of two ordinary police officers and their experiences of the day. Its makers have avoided the use of news footage of the planes colliding with the towers.

Political Stone

Platoon (1986)

Charlie Sheen stars as a naive Gl who goes to "Nam" as a rookie and leaves as a man, torn between the father figures of Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger.

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

A tour de force from Tom Cruise, who plays crippled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, an anti-war campaigner betrayed by his country.

JFK (1991)

Kevin Costner plays New Orleans distirct attorney Jim Garrison, who take it on himself to investigate the Kennedy assassination.

Nixon (1995)

Slated for clumsy symbolism. At one point Anthony Hopkins, in the title role, discusses dropping "the big one" on Vietnam at dinner, before expressing disgust at the blood on this steak.

Source: The Guardian

The plot follows McLoughlin and his fellow officer, Will Jimeno, as they venture into the Twin Towers before their collapse, and features their confinement in their wreckage and subsequent rescue.

But members of the families of those who died on Sept. 11, academics and the film's producers have begun a battle over the film's subject and the way Stone decided to focus on just one story behind the tragedy, accusing those behind the film of cashing in on events.

The widows of two Port Authority Police officers who were killed on Sept. 11 2001 have decried Jimeno and McLoughlin, who acted as close advisers to Stone's film, and earned at least US$200,000 each for their services. Jeanette Pezzulo, who lives in the Bronx, told the Seattle Times that Jimeno's decision to make the film was hurtful because her husband, Port Authority police officer Dominick Pezzulo, died while trying to free Jimeno and McLoughlin. She said: “My thing is: this man died for you. How do you do this to this family?”

Her sentiments were echoed by Jamie Amoroso from Staten Island, whose husband also died in the rescue operation. She said: “I do not need a movie to tell me what a hero my husband was.”

Baltimore detective Ken Nacke, whose brother Louis died on Flight 93, said he would not be going to see the film. He criticized its producers for not involving enough of the survivors' families in its production, something he said did not happen with Greengrass. He added: “I met a couple of people who lost relatives and had approached the producers and weren't allowed to be involved, and I think it would be disrespectful to them if I went to see it.”

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