'9/11': Film Review


Charlie Sheen, Gina Gershon, Whoopi Goldberg and Jacqueline Bisset are among the stars of this drama about five people trapped in a World Trade Center elevator on that fateful day.

Painful as they may be to contemplate, there are innumerable stories to be told relating to the heroism displayed by many people on 9/11. That makes it all the more unfortunate that Charlie Sheen, an actor who hasn’t exactly been a beacon of maturity throughout his career, has chosen to make his return to dramatic screen acting with a cheesy thriller about five people trapped in a World Trade Center elevator on that fateful day.

The resulting effort proves so exploitative that its end credits' dedication to the victims and first responders feels tawdry. 9/11 represents a cheapo disaster movie wrapping itself in the piety of one of the nation’s most tragic events. The film has been released in theaters three days before the anniversary of the attacks but, in one of the only signs of tastefulness on the part of the distributor, it has at least been rolled out in near surreptitious fashion.  

The film’s stage origins are evident by its being mostly confined to a single setting, an elevator that inevitably gets stuck just after one of the characters looks at his watch reading 8:46 am. Trapped inside are the sort of racially and ethnically diverse bunch that usually populate disaster movies, including billionaire Jeffrey Cage (Sheen) and his wife Eve (Gina Gershon), who’s suing him for divorce; bike messenger Michael (Wood Harris), who’s eager to get to his young daughter’s birthday party; “custodial engineer” Eddie (Luis Guzman); and beautiful Tina (Olga Fonda), who’s the first to start freaking out and popping anti-anxiety meds.

During the ordeal, elevator dispatcher Metzie (Whoopi Goldberg) offers the group advice and emotional support, although she’s hard-pressed to find a way to get them out of their predicament. Remarkably, Eve manages to get her mother (Jacqueline Bisset) on the phone to tell her where she is and get her to call the group’s family members.

In between desperate attempts at opening the elevator door and overhead hatch, the trapped quintet naturally takes the time to work out various personal issues. Jeffrey and Eve begin realizing that their marriage isn’t so bad, especially as compared to imminent death. And Tina laments having been involved in a profitable relationship with a much older sugar daddy. Eventually, such ruminations get put on hold when smoke starts pouring into the elevator.  

And so it goes for 90 long minutes that all too accurately convey the feeling of being trapped in an elevator with people you don’t know and don’t want to know. Suffice it to say that not everyone makes it out alive, but there won’t be a wet eye in the house.

Director/co-screenwriter Martin Guigui, whose previous credits include something called Benny Bliss and the Disciples of Greatness, fails to imbue the cheesy proceedings with any suspense or gravitas. As for Sheen, considering the current state of his career, it’s not surprising that he participated in this tawdry exercise, although it does seem rich considering his past comments alleging that 9/11 was a conspiracy. But what in God’s name, other than a paycheck, attracted the likes of Goldberg, Gershon, Bisset and, in a fleeting appearance, Bruce Davison, to the hokey material is anybody’s guess.

Production: Black Bear Studios, The Film House, Sprockefeller Pictures, Sunset Pictures, Thunder Studios, Vitamin A Films
Distributor: Atlas Distribution Company
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Whoopi Goldberg, Gina Gershon, Luis Guzman, Wood Harris, Olga Fonda, Jacqueline Bisset, Billy Malone, Bruce Davison
Director: Martin Guigui
Screenwriters: Martin Guigui, Steven James Golebiowski
Producers: Warren Ostergard, Martin Sprock, Dahlia Waingort
Executive producers: Mark Burg, David Cuddy, Rodric David, Ryan R. Johnson
Director of photography: Massimo Zeri
Production designer: Jack G. Taylor Jr.
Editor: Eric Potter
Costume designer: Erica Howard
Composer: Jeff Toyne
Casting: Dean E. Fronk, Donald Paul Pemrick

Rated R, 90 minutes