Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena
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The events of September 11 left an indelible mark on most Americans, and certainly on those in the New York City area. Yet as fresh as the images seem, it's easy to forget the actual grit, sacrifice, and uncertainty of that day. Director Oliver Stone captures the essence of 9/11 by focusing on the true story of two Port Authority Police Department officers who were trapped beneath the wreckage of the fallen World Trade Center.Veteran officer Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and his team, including rookie Will Jimeno (Michael Pena) are gathering equipment to enter the burning Twin Towers when the concourse comes crashing down around them. Twenty feet below the surface, pinned by debris and unable to reach anyone by radio, the officers must rely on their own will--and on each other--to survive. Above ground, their families watch the towers fall, uncertain whether or not McLoughlin and Jimeno are there, since they are normally assigned to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Like so many that day, Donna McLoughlin (Maria Bello) and Allison Jimeno (Maggie Gyllenhaal) wait for news at home surrounded by their families, fearing the worst and praying for the best. Stone's film depicts the horror and heartbreak of the victims, survivors, and their families with an understated, subtle touch. From the ash and dust covering everyone and everything to the dazed expressions of the workers leaving the towers to the steaming twisted metal remains of the World Trade Center, attention to detail is exceedingly realistic. Rather than being political or sensationalistic, this is a film about everyday heroes--men and women doing their best in the face of an unspeakable event. It may be just one story of many from September 11, but it represents the efforts, emotions, and reactions of so many on that fateful day.