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.
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.
PHOTO COURTESY OF UIP
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.”
Those connected to the project have been quick to leap to its defence. McGloughlin's wife, Donna, told The Observer: “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.”
The film's producer Moritz Borman also hit back at the allegations. He said: “The cops have not cashed in. They have spend endless hours on this because they felt it was important that the story came out. The fee they got was minimal. The amount they got paid on an hourly rate was very low compared to what anybody in the film industry gets on any job. It was really a pittance.
“Of course there are surviving family members of almost 3,000 people who died in World Trade Center alone. The ones who had anything directly to do with the story were completely consulted. I know there is one widow out there who didn't want it to be made because she felt it was too painful to see her husband die. But I am convinced when she sees it she will be resolved. But she wasn't there. Will and John were there.”
The picture has also provoked debate among the academic community. US media critic and author Shari Graydon condemned the use of the most dramatic elements of tragedies such as Sept. 11 as crass. She said: “These tend not to increase our understanding or make us better equipped to deal with situations such as these in the future.” She added that such films only served to increase the “culture of fear” in certain parts of the US.
Borman, though, said it was never the film's intention to be a definitive account of the day.
“We never went out to explore the whole story of 9/11 and its impact on America and the rest of the world,” he said. “It was more about the working class heroes who risked their life to rescue two of their own. It's a different topic. Nobody went into this film and thought this was the explanation for why 9/11 happened or its geopolitical impact.”
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.
Kevin Costner plays New Orleans distirct attorney Jim Garrison, who take it on himself to investigate the Kennedy assassination.
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
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