9/11 Movie from Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone has been selected by Paramount Pictures to direct Nicholas Cage in a movie based on the story of two Port Authority officers who were rescued during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In a press story, Stone said

Oliver Stone said, "Andrea Berloff's screenplay is one of the best that's ever come to me out of the blue -- I guess like that day. It walloped me -- and many others -- with its emotion and simplicity. Clearly, it's a work of collective passion, a serious meditation on what happened, and carries within a compassion that heals. It's an exploration of heroism in our country -- but is international at the same time in its humanity."

Leaving aside Stone's political leanings and his extremely negative comments about President Bush's handling of the attack, I have two questions. Is America ready for a 9/11 movie? And, is Oliver Stone the right guy to make the movie?

I would like to answer the latter question first. I really like Oliver Stone's early movies, like Platoon and Wall Street, largely because they were stories about people in different situations. From the descriptions of the movie, Stone may be returning to that more personal storytelling, but this movie has the possiblity of turning into a political screed that has marred some of Stone's more recent films. Stone could very well pull this off, if he can remained focused solely on the efforts his two main heroes.

The problem is that by focusing on these two officers, Stone may end of making the two men generic cut-outs for the hundreds of first responders who took action that day or ignoring them all together. Either of those scenarios presents dangers for the movie.

Although I don't know the details of the story of Officers John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, I can't imagine their story being that much different than the hundreds and thousands of other stories that day. I am not sure what makes these men so special, other than that they survived, which admittedly does make them special. Assuming that Stone sticks with their story and avoids the potential for political messages, there is a possibility that a Stone directed 9/11 movie could be well done. But should it be done?

I wonder more about whether we as a nation are ready for a movie on such a topic. There is not many people who would be eligible to attend this movie who don't know about the events of that tragic day. While personal stories are interesting, I don't want to see them made into a cliche. Are we as a nation ready to relive those days, even through the lens of a movie, no matter how tastefully done the movie is?

My answer is no, we are not. In a time when the modern attentions span is approaching zero, this memory remains somewhat fresh, if for no other reason than the sheer horror of the day. Will movies be made about 9/11? Sure, and they probably should, when the memory starts to fade, when the tragedy begins to be lost the the fog of time, and when the pain of that day subsides. When will that time be? I don't know, but less than five years seems too short a time. The celebration of heroes is an important subject in any country's collective memory and mythology, but such celebration should not come with the cost of opening a psychic scab covering a national wound that has not healed.

Posted by Matt Johnston at December 13, 2005 2:25 PM