World Trade Center

When I was a child, my father described the three-act structure like this:

“In Act One, you get a guy stuck up in a tree.  In Act Two, they throw rocks at him.  In Act Three, you figure out how to get him down.”

Well, here we have a movie that has almost exactly that plot.

WRITER: Here’s an idea for a movie.  Guy gets stuck in a tree.
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: I love it.  Then what?
W. Then they throw rocks at him.
SE. Pinch me!  I see dollar signs!  And for the big finish?
W. Then we figure out how to get him down.
SE. This is great.  Oh man, this is great.  I can’t — I can’t even sit still, this is too great.  We’re gonna make a shitload of money.
W. You like it?
SE.  It’s — it’s poetry, honestly.  You like Nic Cage?
W. Sure.  You mean as the guy?
SE.  In the tree, yeah.
W.  Sure, yeah, okay.
SE.  My guy knows his guy, he’s doing a picture for us, we’ll set up a meeting.
W. Really?  That, well, that’d be g —
SE.  Hey.
W.  Yeah?
SE.  Here’s an idea.
W. What’s that.
SE.  I like the tree?  I like it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m just, I’m thinking — just to make it a bigger movie, mind you —
W.  Yeah?
SE.  What if — and this is the bad version — what if, instead of a tree?
W.  Yeah?
SE.  A skyscraper.
W.  Skyscraper?
SE. Guy gets stuck in a skyscraper.
W. Why would he get stuck in a skyscraper?
SE. I dunno.  Maybe he’s got acrophobia, maybe he’s a construction worker, maybe he’s a fireman.  Hey!  Instead of a tree, building on fire.
W.  Uh huh —
SE. Yeah, building on fire!  He’s a fireman!
W.  Didn’t Ladder 49 bomb?
SE.  Shit, yeah.  Bad idea.  Hey.  You know what?
W. What.
SE.  Two skyscrapers.
W. (pause) Two —
SE.  Yeah, not one skyscraper, two skyscrapers.  And instead of him being stuck up in it?  He’s stuck under it.
W.  Mm —
SE. See?  We stand the whole thing on its head.
W.  Right, right — we, we seem to be getting away from the simplicity of the “tree” concept.
SE. Two skyscrapers.  They fall down.  And we give him somebody to talk to.  Remember how Tom Hanks had that soccer ball in Cast Away?  Same thing.  We give him a, a, I dunno, a black friend or something.
W.  I read that Latinos are America’s fastest-growing demographic.
SE.  Perfect.  Latino friend, that’s perfect.  See?  And so there’s two guys.  Two skyscrapers, two guys.  See?  Now we’re thinking in terms of “theme.”  We’re polishing the script we haven’t even written yet!
W.  And in Act Three we get them out.
SE.  That’s the movie.
W.  And we can still throw rocks at them in Act Two?
SE.  Act Two is all about the throwing of rocks.  So many rocks.  By the end of the movie, these guys will be spitting little rocks out of their mouths.  Now all we need is two collapsed skyscrapers.  You like Oliver Stone?  He’s looking for a project.
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6 Responses to “World Trade Center”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Well, he’s also doing Wicker Man, so if you really want to see him stuck up in a tree…

    Actually, I’m really curious to watch my copy, then see the remake. It looks uncomfortably different.

    They were talking about WTC on the radio last night, praising it for its lack of politics — it seems like failing to mention politics is implicitly supporting one side though. Can’t wait for the movie about the demolition crew.

    • Todd says:

      It’s not just devoid of politics, it’s devoid of context. The filmmakers have quite deliberately put the viewer in the shoes of the protagonist, who doesn’t know what has happened to him. No one mentions Al Qaeda, no one mentions bin Laden, there’s barely even a hint of a reason as to why this has happened. Cage’s character begins the movie clueless and ends it almost as clueless.

      Which is, in its own way, a powerful dramatic statement about the events of 9/11. Honestly, you could show this movie to a five-year-old (I don’t even think there’s anything in the movie that would disturb them, except the shroud of death that hangs over the proceedings) and they would have no idea what happened on 9/11 except that a pair of very large buildings fell down and some people got trapped.

      One of the things that makes the movie unique, not just for Oliver Stone but for Hollywood in general, is that it not only refuses to “dramatise” events, it refuses, with a couple of exceptions, to find a dramatic event to portray. A couple of guys get caught in the collapse, and they get rescued. They didn’t get caught while saving a group of orphans from a fire, they got caught while looking for the stairwell. The guys who rescue them aren’t superheroes, they’re just guys doing their jobs. All the heroism and sacrifice of the day is deliberately underplayed, which, come to think of it, is an impressive feat when you think about the emotions of that day.

  2. eronanke says:

    I think this movie is going to make Americans feel proud of themselves again…. And that’s a good idea. When America is Smug, it doesn’t invade places.

  3. monica_black says:

    I’m thinking that we need to stop making movies about 9/11.