Before Nicolas Cage went all Nic Cage on us, he was part of many good films. One of these “before Nic Cage” films can now be seen on Netflix.
World Trade Center is the 2006 Oliver Stone-directed movie that stars Nicolas Cage as real-life Port Authority Police Officer John McLoughlin and tells of the heroic events and recuses that came in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The movie follows McLoughlin and fellow officer Will Jimeno (Michael Peña) who, while patrolling the Midtown Manhattan Port Authority Bus Terminal, witness an airplane flying dangerously low across the city. As they return to their station, they see on television that the first airplane has hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The station immediately jumps into action. On their way to the horrific scene, they learn that the South Tower has also been hit by an airplane. The horror only gets worse when they arrive on the scene and see the devastation. A victim, jumping from one of the towers to their death, punctuates the scene.
Nicolas Cage’s McLoughlin, Michael Peña’s Jimeno, and a few other heroes grab safety equipment, ready to do their jobs. As they enter the concourse between the towers, they are also informed of the other attacks across the nation. The group of men then prepare to head into the North Tower when the buildings begin to rumble. McLoughlin realizes that the South Tower is coming down and their only hopeful chance of survival is the service elevator shaft.
Two heroes are unable to get to the shaft in time, losing their lives. Three men, McLoughlin, Jimeno, and Dominick Pezzulo are able to make it though, as the South Tower crumbles. Even though they are able to avoid the flying rubble and dust, they find themselves trapped in the elevator shaft.
When the rumbling stops and the falling debris ends, Pezzulo realizes he can move and shifts himself over to Jimeno, who is trapped. Unfortunately, Pezzulo is unable to reach McLoughlin as he is trapped deeper in the elevator shaft.
Optimism is high that they will all make it out alive when the rumbling begins again. The North Tower is coming down on their heads. Somehow, miraculously, Nicolas Cage’s McLoughlin and Michael Peña’s Jimeno are not injured any further, but Pezzulo suffers a fatal injury when a large concrete slab crushes him. His dying heroic deed comes when he fires a bullet through a gap in the rubble trying to get rescuers to their location.
The two survivors know their time is short. They begin to talk about their families, their lives. McLoughlin is doing what he can to keep Jimeno from falling asleep. He is successful which allows Jimeno to realize that if he can reach a metal bar above his body, he can make noise that rescuers may be able to hear.
Both McLoughlin and Jimeno’s efforts paid off when two Marines, Dave Karnes and Jason Thomas, heard Jimeno pounding away and were able to locate them. McLoughlin and Jimeno were only 2 of the 20 people that were pulled from both collapsed towers alive.
Not going to lie here, World Trade Center is a tough watch. Director Oliver Stone does a great job allowing his audience to see and feel the events of that fateful morning and its aftermath. His focus, thankfully, is on the two Port Authority officers played by Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña, and the heroes who found them. Stone rightfully so stays away from what could be a political narrative concerning the terrorists responsible to remain fully engaged with those inside the rubble.
Given a $65 million budget, Stone’s tragic film brought back a little over $163 million, though there were a few who were not happy with the film. Jeanette Pezzulo, the widow of Dominick who perished in the attacks, expressed her anger with the film, producers, and the fact that the real-life John McLoughlin, Will Jimeno, and their wives, got involved with making the film. “My thing is: this man died for you,” she remarked via The Guardian. “How do you do this to his family?”
But John McLoughlin’s wife Donna stated, also via The Guardian, “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.”
For Nicolas Cage, World Trade Center came at a time when he was still considered an A-lister. Okay, maybe he was more of a B+-lister at the time. He had just come off making the first National Treasure, Lord of War, and The Weather Man, and was still a highly respected name in the Hollywood ranks. World Trade Center did nothing to hurt his star appeal though his follow-up movie, the horrendous The Wicker Man, could have been the beginning of his dip into B-movie schlock.
Nicolas Cage followed those movies up with another National Treasure film, then he found time on Kick-Ass, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (underrated and fun), and Season of the Witch (underrated and fun too). He did follow up his 2007 hit Ghost Rider in 2011 with the disappointing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and by that time the B-movie writing was on the wall.
Nicolas Cage, meet Nic Cage. Cage has since embraced his cult B-movie status with open arms and fans, in turn, have embraced him. Nic Cage has starred in movies like Joe, Rage, Left Behind, Dying of the Light, Pay the Ghost, and Dog Eat Dog. It doesn’t stop there though.
Nic Cage has made a name for himself with other movies such as Vengeance: A Love Story, Mom and Dad, Mandy, Color Out of Space, Primal, Jiu Jitsu, Prisoners of the Ghostland, and Willy’s Wonderland. You get the picture. He has also recently finished a movie called Pig. B-movie heaven.
If you want to see Nicolas Cage before he went Nic Cage, give World Trade Center a try on Netflix. It can be a hard-to-watch film at times, but it shows just how powerful we as human beings can be when necessary.