- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 12, 2006

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘World Trade Center’

Rating: PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 13 and older.

*** (out of five stars)

Synopsis: Inspiring account of the September 11 terrorist attacks; too intense for younger children.

Running time: 125 minutes

Common Sense note: Parents should know this film isn’t appropriate for younger children and may be too much for sensitive teens. It includes explicit images of the World Trade Center towers collapsing, mostly from inside the buildings. It also features potentially upsetting television footage and re-creations of Ground Zero.

Early on, you see a body falling from a tower (and the cops’ horrified reactions); later, several men are crushed by the falling building; one dies on screen, gurgling blood from his mouth as another observes (again, horrified). At the hospital the victims’ injuries are visible (broken limbs, bloody faces). Family members waiting for news are tense and sad; a woman cries about her lost son; a pregnant woman vomits.

Families can discuss the relationship that develops between the two survivors, John and Will: How do they keep each other alive by sharing personal stories? How does the community get through the waiting and grieving? How do the children react to their fathers’ unknown status? How do their mothers answer their questions in ways that are honest and also comforting?

Families can also talk about their own recollections of the day and answer any questions children may have about the tragic events.

Common Sense review: September 11th remains a difficult day to remember, even as it’s increasingly mythologized and recast in media images. While it may not be time for all viewers to see the images of devastation in “World Trade Center,” others will appreciate the uplifting point as it focuses on a small group of people to recount a vast tragedy.

“Based on actual accounts of surviving participants,” the movie builds on details. We see the digital alarm clock that shows the day’s beginning for Port Authority Police Department Sgt. John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage): He rises, showers and leaves for work without waking his wife, Donna (Maria Bello). His men arrive one by one in midtown Manhattan. Their routines will be changed forever that day, when the Twin Towers are hit by commercial jets and collapse, killing just under 3,000 people, including policemen and firefighters.

John takes a team inside, planning to “help,” but the towers fall before they can, trapping him and rookie cop Will Jimeno (Michael Pena).

Sexual content: A couple appears in bed together during a happy flashback (some kissing, much laughing).

Language alert: One extreme expletive; other profanity is used by injured men.

Violence alert: A shot of the hole left by one of the planes shows flames; a tiny figure appears from a long distance, jumping/falling from one of the towers; scenes of the collapsing towers are disturbing; people emerge from towers bloody and dazed; TV image of United Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania; men lying beneath rubble are plainly injured; a trapped man fires a gun into the air, then dies.

Commercialism alert: Mention of Target. CVS aisles show glimpses of products. At one point, Will exults, “You wouldn’t believe what I saw,” and you see it too: a gorgeously backlit “Jesus with a water bottle,” literally, a commercial spring water bottle clutched in his sacred hand, dutifully translated from Will’s “account.”

Social behavior alert: Characters smoke cigarettes.

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