While the 20th Century might have officially ended on January 1st, 2000, I think that, culturally, it actually ended on September 11th, 2001. The tragic events that took place across America that day truly thrust us into a new world and a new age of caution and terror. While many of the children today weren’t even born when the 9/11 attacks happened, the history books will inform them of the day’s importance. Of course, it was only going to be a matter of time before films would be made about September 11th. The challenge then becomes: how do we approach this with tact and sensitivity? A lot of people lost their lives during that fateful day, so their tragedy should not be seen in any sort of humorous or irreverent light. This week’s two films look at the horrors and effects of September 11th, both at home and abroad.
Zero Dark Thirty
Length: 157 minutes / 2.61 hours
After the dust had settled, then-President George W. Bush proclaimed a “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan to track down the terrorists responsible for the devastating attacks on United States soil. Many films have been made about this war resulting from 9/11, all to varying forms of success. From some comedies that loosely use the war as a setting (including The A-Team (2010) and The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)) to serious dramas that have won major awards (like The Hurt Locker (2008)), the Iraq War has been used as a backdrop similar to many films that came before it using the wars of their time. However, the most important battles on the war on terror were not necessarily fought by soldiers, but by analysts. Films like Fair Game (2010) tried to convey this, but none have been able to match Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
The true end to the war on terror occurred nearly ten years after the September 11th attacks. While subsequent wars on terror may have emerged, the assassination of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team Six on May 2, 2011, marked the end of the pursuit of the terrorist leader responsible for 9/11. Of course, the only reason why Navy Seals were able to find bin Laden was due to the relentless efforts of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA intelligence analyst who started working to find Osama in 2003. After many years of little to no progress, with many lives and careers ruined, Maya finally hits pay dirt. A series of connections leads her to find where bin Laden is hiding, which prompts her leadership to organize a raid on the complex. Highly trained soldiers with advanced equipment descend on the humble abode to finally end the decade-long pursuit.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours
Even though closure on the September 11th attacks wouldn’t come for many more years, there have been many films made about that day. From movies about the people on the planes (United 93 (2006)) to the people on the ground in New York (World Trade Center (2006)), there have been few films that have dealt with the families of those who died during the attacks. Since everything happened so suddenly, many struggled to cope with the loss. Those who perhaps had the hardest time dealing with the death of a loved one were the children whose parents were in the World Trade Center when it fell. Fortunately, as we’ve seen time and again in tragedy after tragedy, the community steps up to lift itself past the hurt and forward toward healing. Released on the same year as the final scenes of Zero Dark Thirty, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) reminds us of the strength of a community.
Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a socially-awkward boy of nine years old who is coaxed out of his shell by his father, Thomas (Tom Hanks). To do so, Thomas sets up scavenger hunts throughout New York City which require his son to interact with many, diverse people. Unfortunately, Thomas is killed when the World Trade Center falls on September 11th. A year later, Oskar meets a silent old man (Max von Sydow) who does not talk due to a similar trauma during World War II when his parents died. After having found a mysterious key in his father’s closet days before, Oskar and the old man set out to discover what the key goes to. As Oskar conquers some of his fears, he starts to realize the old man is his grandfather and plays back Thomas’ final answering machine messages. Finally, Oskar finds what the key goes to, and is somewhat disappointed until he learns of his mother’s (Sandra Bullock) involvement in setting up the search.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 sides of September 11th