Oliver Stone presented a 25-minute preview at the Cannes Film Festival of his upcoming “World Trade Center,” promising an agonizing portrait of courage, camaraderie and perseverance.
Stone, who introduced the footage that was shown Sunday night before a 20th anniversary screening of his Vietnam saga “Platoon,” said that war film and his Sept. 11 drama both deal with working-class heroes, not superhuman deeds.
“It seems like the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iraq, all these things get built up, 9/11, into mythologies,” Stone told The Associated Press. “This is about what it was like at ground zero.”
“World Trade Center,” scheduled for U.S. release in August, is based on the true story of New York Port Authority policemen John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Pena). They were among the last survivors pulled from the rubble of the twin towers after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“As history is being written, it’s just as important to acknowledge the heroes in the history as it is to include the terrorists,” said “World Trade Center” screenwriter Andrea Berloff. “I’d rather look at it as a day that looks at what Americans were able to do for themselves.”
The film shows the start to McLoughlin’s day as he rises at 3:30 a.m., showers, dresses and heads to work. There are moments of police fraternity as a fellow officer makes fun of Jimeno’s colorful boxer shorts in the locker room.
New Yorkers are shown on their morning commute, the twin towers in the distance.
McLoughlin, the sturdy sergeant, doles out assignments during roll call. But after a final shot of the untouched towers viewed from ground level, the routine day gives way to chaos as the planes hit, debris rains onto the pavement and walking wounded begin to stream onto the streets.
There are cries of horror as trapped victims leap to their deaths from the trade center, McLoughlin and the other policemen flinching at the crash of their bodies overhead.
As McLoughlin’s team prepares to head up into the first tower, they hear the terrible roar of the second one collapsing. Flaming debris rains down outside and a squall of gray ash surges into the concourse.
Knowing the elevator vestibule is their best chance for safety, McLoughlin shouts for his men to follow him there. The Cannes footage goes black as the men are buried in the rubble, then ends with a final close-up on Cage’s eyes and soot-covered face.
The film co-stars Maria Bello as McLoughlin’s wife and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno’s.
“World Trade Center” is the year’s second Sept. 11 offering, following last month’s “United 93,” about passengers who died as their plane crashed after they fought back against their hijackers. “United 93” also is playing at Cannes.
Though the five-year anniversary of the attacks is approaching, some moviegoers have said they do not yet have the stomach to relive Sept. 11 on the big screen.
Yet Sept. 11 movies are inevitable, and they can help heal the wounds, the filmmakers said.
“9/11 is with us, whether we treat it on film or not,” said “World Trade Center” producer Michael Shamberg. “What Hollywood has to add is stories about that day that both illuminate the events and give you a sense of hopefulness, not just tragedy.”