Director Martin Guigui is the one responsible for helming 9/11, a new motion picture based upon a play penned by Patrick Carson. Both the play and the movie concern five human beings all trapped in an elevator in the Southern Tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11. These five people consist of a bike messenger, Michael (Wood Harris), pug-owner Tina (Olga Fonda), World Trade Center engineer Eddie (Luis Guzman) and formerly married couple Jeffrey (Charlie Sheen) and Eve (Gina Gershon). They’ve all got their own individual baggage to deal with, particularly Jeffrey and Eve who are in the middle of a messy divorce that is bringing out the worst in each other.
But like I siad, they all get trapped in an elevator on that fateful day in September 2001 and the five of them try to communicate with the manager of all elevators in the World Trade Center, Metzie (Whoopi Goldberg), to try to figure out how they can possibly escape this elevator. Just as Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor staged a horrific attack on American lives as, in the immortal words of Roger Ebert, “…a surprise attack on an American love triangle”, here all the horrors of the September 11th attacks are relegated to being simply background noise to the trials and tribulations of Charlie Sheen being stuck in an elevator.
As I said before, 9/11 is based on a play by Patrick Carson (which only performed in Tucson, Arizona as near as I can tell), and being based on a stage play means 9/11 is heavy on dialogue and character exploration. The screenplay adaptation of that play (which is also penned by Guigui as well as Steven Golebiowski) does an abysmal job translating this show to the silver screen. The film itself is stuck with a whole horde of paper-thin characters that are thoroughly forgettable at best and downright irritating at worst. Tina, for instance, is always popping pills and trying to break off a relationship with an older rich guy, but it never goes anywhere, they can’t even be bothered to give her a tidy moral that’ll help her in her personal life to learn from the experience of being trapped in this elevator. If you took her character out of the movie, the entire production wouldn’t be altered one bit.
Since Tina is merely forgettable and disposable though, that might make her the best character in the movie since the rest of the people in this story are absolutely dreadfully written. Michael’s main trait as a character is that he’s racist against Pakistani and Asian people. He’s also around so he can be dressed down by Eve and Jeffrey in an extended monologue wherein the notion of white privilege is totally disproved. I’m glad we had a scene where white people dressed down an African-American man for not understanding race in America properly, a movie about Charlie Sheen trapped in an elevator on 9/11 wasn’t already incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
What about Eddie? Can talented character Luis Guzman save this movie by being at least charming in this role? Alas, Guzman is never given the chance to shine in his role since Eddie is just around to be the recipient of an avalanche of fat jokes. And then there’s Eve and Jeffrey. Eve is basically just around so she can (SPOILER ALERT, as if it matters) be angry at her husband at the start of the story and then fall back in love with him as Jeffrey continues to exhibit heroic tendencies across the story. And as for Jeffrey, the characters basically the dad from any 90’s kids movie, the dad who’s always working and missing baseball games and all that jazz. That’s all the depth he gets here and Charlie Sheen’s awful performance, which is chock full of terrible line deliveries, only cements the fact that this terrible cast of characters is being led by a poorly written protagonist.
The writers seem to realize it’s impossible for anyone to care about these characters as written, so much of the screentime is devoted to showing off actual archive footage of the 9/11 attacks as they occur. Remember how Zero Dark Thirty opened with just the audio of those attacks against a stark black screen? Something that artistically bold and thoughtful is out of the grasp of a dumpster fire of a movie like 9/11, which tosses out actual footage of the 9/11 attacks in a way that comes off as exploitative at best. At least that awful facet of the movie makes for a nice accompaniment for Guigui’s shoddy directing which frames the conversations exchanged by the five primary cast members in their claustrophobic setting in a visually repugnant fashion that’s truly ugly to the eyes. Really, the whole movie is just ugly to its core, it’s handily one of the most appalling motion pictures I’ve seen in eons. 9/11 isn’t just a bad film, it’s a disgusting one overflowing with tedious characters and lifeless directing at every turn. I could just run through every synonym for sickening known to man to describe this trash heap of a feature film but I’ll be more succinct and simply say stay far far far away from this loathsome creation.