Even with a star-studded cast, including Whoopi Goldberg and Charlie Sheen, “9/11” fails to satisfy my hopes for a film depicting one of the most infamous days in American history. Clearly not aiming for reality, the film glazes over historical details to focus on the cesspool of emotions fermenting between five strangers stuck in a World Trade Center elevator.
At first, “9/11” sets the stage well for the daunting task of reenacting the horrible events that happened on that day 16 years ago. It started with average people all going through their morning routine – a janitor dispatched to unclog a toilet, an estranged couple leaving a divorce mediation, a lower-class father running errands before his daughter’s birthday party, and an exploited woman looking for her independence – all traveling on an elevator in the World Trade Center.
You could feel the tension in the audience as each character nonchalantly went about their business, not knowing they were going to be at the site that would live on in American minds forever.
We all jumped out of our seats when the first explosion of the plane shook the scene with a sound that made everyone in the audience cringe. Then the plot took off. The scene cuts to actual live footage from that day of the first plane crashing into the tower, and the elevator breaks down, trapping all five people until they can work together to find a way out. Their only line of communication to the outside was the elevator attendant, Metzie (Whoopi Goldberg).
Unfortunately, from there, our expectations were anything but fulfilled.
When I think of the purpose of a film based off 9/11, I think of heart-wrenching, emotional, crippling reenactments of the real events; however, this film opted to fill 90 minutes with arguments of socio-economic disputes between characters of two different sectors of society, a trivial story of a failed marriage and the struggle to be free from an exploitive benefactor.
The constant updates of the terror they receive are but minor details compared to the emotional distress the characters face in their own life. It seemed like the real events of that day took a back seat while the shallow problems of the characters in the elevator took the wheel. I was just left hoping Jesus would take the wheel after being forced to listen to Jeffrey’s (Charlie Sheen) lackluster comedy for over an hour.
Offering cheap storylines behind each character’s anguish only served to overshadow their eventual collective effort to escape the elevator. I think the flat characters and their cliché development by the end of the film failed miserably to capture the true essence of bravery and patriotism that emanated from citizens and first responders on 9/11.
Verdict: With a great premise, but poor execution, “9/11” failed to realize its potential to deliver both substantive characters and a realistic depiction of the historic attack. Dry comedy, lousy character development, and neglect of the natural emotional appeal of the 9/11 attacks all mired this film down with disappointment.