Thursday, October 19, 2006

World Trade Center and some thoughts on War Movies

I saw the latest Oliver Stone movie "World Trade Center" yesterday. The film is actually another of those war movies. The trailer preceding the main feature was Clint Eastwood's "Flags of our Fathers". This was so apropro.

Five years into the War on Terror, America seems ready to deal with the 9-11 terrorist attacks on film. While other war movies deal with the fighting man (or woman) on the front (or home front) and the political context of the period, this movie does not. Stone takes great effort not to politicize the movie. This is unlike his other films such "JFK" (conspiracy and assasination) and "Born on the 4th of July" (Vietnam War and its aftermath)

Perhaps the best part of the film is how the CGI and special effects of the twin towers' collapse was depicted and this gives a surreal effect. The viewer is brought back in time and at the WTC as it collapses.

The movie deals with two Port Authority cops who were trapped inside the elevator shaft and were one of the last people to be pulled out alive of the rubble. Michael Pena's acting was good for he was able play the role of a NY cop including real "cop talk" so well. Nicholas Cage for once isn't shooting people and he was able convey his character while pinned down with only his eyes and moustache doing the acting.

It is what was happening on the home front that was so stereotypical. Movie reviewers give these scenes a thumbs down even if the actors and actresses playing the parts of spouses, brothers, in laws and kids are well acclaimed.

Here we see a comment on how much the American family has changed since they were portrayed in WWII war movies. There is a hint of dysfunctionality in the 2001 war on terror family (and that acting of the dysfunctional kid was atrocious). The stoic attitude of the family is nowhere to be seen.

Nonetheless, the quintessential American values of family, mom, dad, apple pie? (no it was baked macaroni!) and the strictly defined gender roles of the American mom and the American dad in the service. The home front was well depicted in the Tom Hanks starrer "Saving Private Ryan". The American family always expected that dad, husband and brother would come home in a box (but after receiving a letter from the Secretary of War). There was a stoic attitude to death. This attitude was still evident in the Mel Gibson starrer "Once were Soldiers" though in this movie Americans were already pondering a morally questionable war.

War movies have the big aim of shoring up the home front. The state expects the home front to steel its will and eventually defeat the enemy. But in this War on Terror, where is the enemy? And this is why this some movie reviewers believe that this movie isn't really Hollywood material. We can't see the enemy. No Nips, No Nazis, No Viet Congs! Without a flag being raised on top of Mount Suribachi, how would the home front know that they have won?

So probably in the next two years, when the George W Bush presidency enters its lameduck stage, Americans will start to ponder the political context of the 9-11 terrorist attacks in a movie. It took 50 years after VE and VJ day for film makers to explore the "meaningless of war theme" in World War II and 10 or so years after the "escape from the embassy helipad" for film makers and viewers to ponder the morality of the Vietnam War.

Would Bart Simpson list the War on Terror in his list of just wars? He has 1) The American War of Independence, 2) World War II and 3) The Star Wars Trilogy in his list.

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