United 93


Man on Wire

©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images

On a cloudy August morning in 1974, Philippe Petit could be seen from lower Manhattan streets walking to and fro on a wire stretched between the roofs of the two World Trade Center buildings. This slender documentary is a little jewel of a film that recounts the machinations behind the stunt, relying on talking-head interviews and filmed re-enactments to explain exactly how Petit and his band of accomplices managed to bluff their way into the still-unfinished buildings, sneak to the very top, and finally execute just about the most daring high-wire act imaginable.

Photo ©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images

World Trade Center

Or, Buried Alive on the Fourth of July

wtc_198.jpgIf you’re buried alive under a pile of smoldering rubble in an Oliver Stone movie, it seems your salvation may come from one of two places. First, there’s Jesus. If he shows up, he may offer to deliver you from suffering, but it will likely mean punching your ticket. Hang on, buddy, because your second saviour is the U.S. Marines. And if the Marines show up, boy howdy are you in good hands. That’s the non-ironic gist of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, a conservative yarn of life in these times rife with sentiment and earnestness. I’ll go so far as to say the bit with the Marines is a well-timed moment of catharsis in a movie that needs it. It made me smile and laugh out loud in spite of myself. Sometimes, hokum works pretty beautifully. The film’s opening is just lovely — a sober collection of shots of New York City, skyline still intact, coming to life in the morning. It reminded me a little of the majestic opening montage of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, set to “Rhapsody in Blue,” but this version is laced unavoidably with overwhelming sadness.

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