Brian M. Carney: The conspiracy-minded Oliver Stone curiously couldn't find a conspiracy in 9/11 even though there was one





... When word got out that Oliver Stone was making a movie about September 11, many feared we were in for another iteration of his 1991 conspiracy-minded "JFK." Those fears were unfounded; "World Trade Center" plays it straight. It is scrupulously apolitical and emotionally correct, tugging on all the right heartstrings and offering a view not so much of heroism on that terrible day as of basic human kindness and perseverance in the face of unimaginable horror and destruction. There are no conspiracies here, no political red flags.

The movie follows two Port Authority police officers who are trapped under the rubble of the collapsing towers. They would be the last two people, but one, pulled from the pile of debris left behind in the wake of the towers' destruction. The movie, which debuts next week, has been almost universally praised as patriotic, pro-American, pro-family.

It is also probably as close as one could come to a feel-good movie about such a terrible day. Unlike Paul Greengrass's "United 93," "World Trade Center" tells the story of two survivors and the men who rescued them. But also unlike "United 93," there are no villains in Mr. Stone's movie. Nicholas Cage's John McLoughlin and Michael Pena's Will Jimeno could have been trapped by an earthquake or an accident.

But 9/11 was not a act of God or nature. It was an atrocity carried out with malice aforethought by evil men bent on killing innocents. Put differently, it was a conspiracy -- one that Oliver Stone has left out of his film.

It is not my intention to question this decision as an artistic judgment; Mr. Stone set out to make a narrowly focused film about one thing that happened on September 11, 2001, to the exclusion of everything else. He has done that well, and it would be foolish to argue that he should have made some other movie instead.

But it is legitimate to examine Mr. Stone's movie in light of its moral message. A long article on the film in Newsweek quotes Mr. Stone: "The consequences of 9/11 are enormous to this world, not just to America." This is true; 9/11 changed world history. But he goes on: "This movie is made for the world, and if it's what I hope it to be, it transcends 9/11. It's about anybody, anywhere, who feels the taste of death, whether it was a bombing in Madrid or an earthquake or a tsunami" (emphasis added). Well, now we are in a different place. The world-changing character of 9/11 does not rest on the number of people who "felt the taste of death." Hundreds of thousands more people died in the December 2004 tsunami. It was a tragic event, but not a world-changing one. Unless you are an animist inclined to attribute moral significance to random acts of nature, a tsunami is "value-free." It just happened. But 9/11 didn't just happen. As "United 93" makes explicit, 9/11 happened because determined men with a plan boarded those planes and carried out their plan....

Related Links

  • 9/11: Five Years Later

  • Teaching About 9-11



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