World Trade Center 2-Disc Commemorative Edition Blu-ray Review
PictureFor a film that is set predominantly in the dark, the transfer on this BD-50 has quite a challenge on its hands. But, like the highly regarded HD edition, it is more than capable of showcasing the film with a simply stunning image that delivers every speck of grit, every smear of cold sweat and every last-hope reflection in the eyes. The testing times are during the quieter spells down in the debris, when the screen is blanketed in shadow and only slim shafts of light puncture the blackness to illuminate frightened faces in the gloom. However, the great news is that the transfer finds and gives substance to a lot of murky shapes in the darkness, giving the image a hugely atmospheric sense of depth despite the rubble-packed environment. There are moments when the setting can resemble a huge cavern, with the appropriate three-dimensionality still managing to come across despite the blighted-light conditions. Detail is terrific on the faces with every line, cut and mark picked out with calculated ease and precision. The ghastly and weird configurations of the wreckage have a solidity and definition that actually encourages you to look around the frame. The fluttering shreds of paper filtering down from the sky are sharply presented and the clouds of dust and smoke have a natural quality that is equally finite.
Colours topside are bright and well-held with no trace of smearing or over-saturation, although the primaries are extremely deep. The contrast shifts between light and dark from scene to scene are meticulous and reliable, and even when called upon to be witnessed in the same shot - looking up at a teasing window of daylight, perhaps, or the gleam of torch beams - the disc ensures a near-perfect reproduction.
The source print is very clean, although there is some slight grain floating about the image. Some picture noise can be detected against the skyline shots and the overhead views but this is really very minimal and should not detract from an image that is so consistently sharp and robust.
SoundAlthough only furnished on Blu-ray with a DD 5.1 mix - the HD edition had DD 5.1 Plus - World Trade Centre still delivers the goods with a thunderous mix of truly ground-shaking proportions. When those towers come crashing down, man, are you going to feel it! And your neighbours, too. The bass levels incorporated here are superb, with a weight that sounds completely and quite distressingly realistic. The effect of tumbling steel and concrete is tremendously achieved and expressed with a true sense of escalating impact and damage - bolt that sofa down if you don't want it trundling across the room with the vibrations. However, this bombast is not long-lasting. Once the debris has settled, so does the track and the majority of the film then plays out with a subdued, though still acutely rendered presentation of voices, hubbub, score and ambience.
Moments such as when the fireballs blast through the wreckage, or when the gun goes off are handled with great directionality and a pin-sharp delivery of echoes and displaced air. The voices of the two trapped men are often muffled and coarsened, but this is purely intentional and acoustically accurate within a soundscape that feels immersive and as natural as a dangerously crushing environment can be.
Overall, this is a marvellous track that manages the impacts and lulls with distinction and does the much-needed task of hauling you into the events witnessed on-screen - whether you want to be or not.
ExtrasWell it's not often that I say this, folks, but the extra features on this Commemorative Edition are actually better than the film they accompany. Now that isn't just me slapping the film down again, it's just that this roster of documentaries tells the real story by the people who were really there and, quite frankly, you can't ask for more than that.
Disc One carries not one, but two commentaries. The first, from Oliver Stone, is excellent, thoughtful and tremendously sincere, but still can't hold a candle to the second one, which features genuine survivors Will Jimeno, Scott Strauss, Jim Buschling and Paddy McGee. Never an easy listen, this track is worth its weight in gold, with frank, heartfelt and sometimes incredibly painful recollections. Thankfully all the participants are recorded together and their common bond is a tonic in the face of their shared experiences. They are keen to point out the odd slice of poetic licence in the film but, on the whole, praise the authenticity that Stone brought to the project.
There is also a collection of Deleted/Extended Scenes with an optional commentary from Stone. Quite a nice selection, actually, but it is clear that they were unnecessary to the story at large. Worth a look though.
Disc Two is where the meaty documentaries lie, most of which are actually in HD, too.
First up is The Making Of World Trade Centre (53.40 mins).Split into three sections - Committing To The Story, Shooting In New York and LA, Closing Wounds - this is the type of completely thorough and comprehensive documentary that totally puts to shame the dross EPKs that all-too often accompany DVDs. “You gotta write about it. You gotta talk about it,” goes Stone's thoughts about whether or not the time was right to make the film. The producers all agreed that after dealing with Vietnam and JFK, Oliver Stone was the only person they could to for cinematic help curing another of America's deep wounds. The doc manages to assemble everybody involved with the production, including the cast, the makers and the real-life people and the result is certainly one of the most affecting, engrossing and vital that I have ever seen. Many painfully genuine feelings are expressed and we see lots of on-set footage with Stone and the cast being advised constantly by those who were actually there. And without meaning to sound trite, or forced, the survivors, rescuers and their families all make it clear that helping to produce the film has been a cathartic and healing experience. Brilliantly put-together, this doc is superlative - informative, involving and often incredibly moving. It is odd, however, that the makers of it decided to subtitle the film's Irish DOP Seamus McGarvey and its Scottish composer Craig Armstrong when their accents are perfectly intelligible.
The next documentary is the most powerful of all. Called Common Sacrifices and divided into two segments - Rescue and Recovery - and lasting for 54 mins, this feature needs no critical overview from me, because this is the survivors, their families, friends and the doctors and nurses who treated them telling us in often disturbingly frank detail of the harrowing events that they experienced. Moving, frightening, fascinating and always inspiring, this set of interviews is absolutely excellent and worth the price of the release on its own. The awful thing is that this proves that the movie ends just before the real ordeal for McLoughlin, Jimeno and their families actually begins. Folks, the film might not have stirred me, but this did. Awesome, and a terrific tribute to the courage of all those poor souls involved with the atrocity.
Building Ground Zero (25.00 mins) is a thorough exploration of how the sets of the wreckage were designed and constructed, and an exclusive to both the HD and BD releases of the film. We see models, pe-viz, full-size reconstructions and the CG that went into bringing the disaster site convincingly to the screen. One of the most striking things revealed by this doc is just how close to the real abyss the trapped men really were, with a digital map showing their exact location amidst the maelstrom of Ground Zero.
Visual and Special FX (12.00 mins) is another exclusive feature that the SD edition didn't have. This shows us how the filmmakers recaptured the New York City of that fateful day via schematics, CG, real trees and fake trees, animatics and even motion capture. It is nice to see how those fireballs were done.
Oliver Stone's New York has the director take us on a tour of the city he grew up in accompanied by the maker of this DVD's special features, Charles Kiselyak. Lasting for 24.30 mins, this has Stone talking about the Big Apple's culture, its people and his memories and feelings towards the metropolis before and after 9/11. He tells of the gangs and the strife that an upbringing in his particular lower class area could involve. We even meet his mother and hear about his Vietnam experiences and how his attitudes have changed over the years, especially now that his hometown has been hurt so badly. I liked this feature as it paints a pretty honest picture of the controversial director and is done so in a relevant and intriguing manner.
Next we are treated to a Q & A session between Stone and Mark Kermode that was originally broadcast in 2006 as part of BAFTA's David Lean Lecture Series. Kermode asks some probing questions about the film before throwing the forum open to the audience. We only get to hear 12.33 mins of the session but it is here that Stone finally gets political about the event, his depiction of it and its metaphors, perceived propaganda and the spirituality it evokes. I would have liked to have seen the full session to be honest as Stone also mentions the possibility of revisiting the subject in another film. Sadly, when Stone introduces the real Will Jimeno in the audience the production can't even be bothered to wheel their cameras around to show him, but otherwise this is another worthy extra.
Rounding off this tremendous wealth of bonuses are a Photo Gallery, a selection of TV Spots and the film's theatrical trailer. Ultimately, this is one of the best packages put together for a DVD that I've seen, and all the more satisfying in that it is actually a BD release.
VerdictOriginally I wasn't very impressed by World Trade Centre and, although watching it again with slightly adjusted expectations has helped, I'm still not particularly moved or stirred by its depiction of such harrowing events. Oliver Stone is a brave and important filmmaker but I feel that he has lost the edge. This and Alexander - whichever version of it you opt for - just don't have the power that his earlier films had in spades. As a BD release the film benefits from a very fine transfer indeed, though not quite up to the standards set by some other titles that I've seen on the format. But as a Commemorative Edition, this 2-discer provides absolutely sterling value for money. The extras are simply excellent and so much more important than the movie that they accompany. They go some way into helping you appreciate the film a lot more, but Stone's interpretation, quite obviously I suppose, comes up short compared to the real thing.
Still, this is an exemplary package and a rare double-disc entry for Blu-ray. Whatever my views on the film, I cannot help but recommend this release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79