2017-09-08 06:59

What it's about:

As the Twin Towers are attacked on that fateful day in September 2001, a group of people stuck in a broken down elevator in the North Tower struggle to survive, while confronting their own and each other's personal demons.

What we thought:

9/11 is an uncomfortable watch – unfortunately, not always for the reasons that the filmmakers clearly want it to be. On the one hand, it is a taut, if overly generic survival thriller with, to be honest, fairly B-grade level performances from most of the cast and some seriously creaky dialogue. On this level it works, just about, even if there's little about it that demands paying the high price of a cinema ticket to see it. 

The problem is that this perfectly adequate B-movie is taking place within the context of a still fairly recent tragedy; a tragedy whose effects still resonate with even those of us who have never been within a thousand miles of New York City. More than “just” a tragedy, in fact, the horrible events of 9/11 were an act of pure evil that brought Islamist extremism to the heart of Western Culture and set America and the rest of the world into a constant state of war or near-war ever since. It was a momentous, defining moment in modern history; one that still calls for the utmost sensitivity.

9/11, the film, is clearly not – it has to be said right from the off – out to exploit a national tragedy or to make light of the terrible evil responsible for it. It's clearly made with the utmost respect and is even dedicated to the memory of the lives of those lost on that day. Presumably, the film – and the play on which it was based by Patrick Carson – has set out to try and give a particularly human, down-on-the-ground perspective on the events and on the way such tragedies affect people and their relationships.

Unfortunately, there is plenty about the film that just leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. It's not out and out offensive and it's clearly trying to do the very opposite of trivialising the events themselves or the awful loss of life but it does end up coming across as extremely misjudged and tone deaf. 

The film's use of humour, for example, is anything but offensive on its own terms as, if anything, it would be dishonest to life and the way many of us try to deal with tragedy if it were to be entirely po-faced. The problem is that the humour is employed in such a way that makes it feel less like a defence mechanism and/or a way to draw the audience into the otherwise deadly serious story as much as it comes across like your typically lame quippy thriller. I'm about 90% sure that that was never the intention and the constant attempts at goofy humour are supposed to be about the characters acting as they would in such a situation but, unfortunately, somewhere between the script, Martin Guigui's direction and the often lackluster performances from a cast who have done impressive work in the past, things have gotten rather lost in translation.

The film also tries to ground everything on the personalities and relationships of the half-dozen people in the lift – going for something between a “bottle episode” on some of the better TV shows out there and a grown-up version of the Breakfast Club – but here too the film just fails to convince. Again, it doesn't miss by a thousand miles but it misses just enough that the characterisation feels just a bit too pat; the characters playing far too close to certain stock archetypes, that it never really congeals into something truly substantial. 

Ultimately, it's precisely that lack of substance that proves to be the film's undoing. It's interesting that Guigui is known best for straight-to-video sex comedies and horror thrillers because, despite the film's serious subject matter and, to be entirely fair, what are undoubtedly good intentions by everyone involved, the film – even at its starkest – never feels like anything more than lightweight, B-grade entertainment. It's solid enough lightweight, B-grade entertainment but while that's more than fine for a bawdy sex comedy or a brain-dead horror flick, it certainly not fine for the subject matter with which it's dealing.

What is it they say about the road to hell, again?

Read more on:    charlie sheen  |  whoopi goldberg  |  movies  |  9/11

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