- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

“And so it was,” we said last summer, “with the greatest regret that we heard Paramount Pictures had chosen Oliver Stone, the conspiracy-addled director with a soft spot for dictators, to direct Hollywood’s first major movie about that day of days.” The day was September 11; the movie, to be released Aug. 8, is “World Trade Center.” A year later, having seen the finished product during a special screening for Washington journalists, it is with the greatest regret that we recall those words. For with “World Trade Center,” Mr. Stone has made a truly great movie.

The story follows the real-life heroics of Sgt. John McLoughlin and Officer William J. Jimeno, two New York Port Authority Police officers who found themselves trapped beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center. With painful intimacy, Mr. Stone forgoes the political prognostications that imbue so much of his previous work, and instead lets the viewer be an invisible witness to the drama of two men buried beneath 20 feet of steel and concrete — a certifiable “hell,” as Michael Pena’s Jimeno puts it.

Meanwhile, as the outside world watches and waits, Mr. Stone also tells the story of the officers’ families, especially their wives, and how one former Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes, trades his civilian clothes for military fatigues like a real-life Superman and sets off to do what Marines are trained to do: finish the mission, no matter the danger, no matter the price.

What makes all of this so especially welcome is how Mr. Stone tells this remarkable American story without a hint of Hollywood cynicism. For instance, when Staff Sgt. Karnes talks about how God has called him to New York, what the audience doesn’t get is a character countering his faith with any of the secular liberalism currently dominating the usual Hollywood fare. The movie is, in so many ways, a return to Hollywood’s halcyon past, as if the last 30 years of anti-military, anti-American movie tradition suddenly was unable to answer the question of how men become heroes and what makes America great. To his credit, Mr. Stone lets his characters answer it themselves, as they did on that day of days.

Beginning with “United 93,” and now with “World Trade Center,” Hollywood has proven that it is indeed capable of creating a truthful work of art with the ability to touch all Americans and not simply cater to one political group. The greatest praise we as an editorial page can give Mr. Stone is that his movie reminded us that presumptions based on political disagreements often ignore common bonds of patriotism. “World Trade Center” proved us wrong — and we’re happy it did so.

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