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Capturing Sept. 11, 2001 at the box office

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Sometimes it's obvious when an industry is just out there to make a fistful of dollars.

The oil industry is doing it to a tee right now.

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The movie industry is another that has its moments. The recipe of violence, sex, and language combined with edgy cinematography and a few highly visible stars usually spells box office success, no matter the material.

Two films this year, however, have gone beyond that formula, sticking to true-to-life sequences, recapturing the horror and heroism that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

I think the last ingredient is what will make these movies work, and will make them important films for this generation, and for generations to come. Yes, Sept. 11 revealed to us a "true" evil. It was a launching pad, too, for the controversial battles now ranging in places like Baghdad, Ramadi and Kabul.

But there was an element of heroism that crosses all party lines, and touched many of us who witnessed everything that transpired that day, and over the course of that week.

"United 93" was released earlier this year, to a chorus of questions of "Are we ready for this?" Apparently, there isn't a firm answer to that question. Critics everywhere loved the movie, from its miscellaneous cast to the storyline that it followed, trying to encapsulate nearly every story gathered from witnesses to what happened on the plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

Next week, the images from "World Trade Center" will be all too familiar. The attacks on the island of Manhattan, with two planes slamming into the Twin Towers, were the most observable part of the Sept. 11 episode. We watched in horror as the second plane slammed into the pillar of our economic center, of course. And we stood in shock as both towers collapsed.

Now, Oliver Stone (a well-known director) and superstar Nic Cage have teamed up to bring us this movie, which will be released next Friday. I'm told that Port Authority officer Jim McLoughlin, portrayed by Cage in the film, wrote the original treatment and worked closely with Stone on the movie. In fact, all of the characters portrayed are real, and the events are pictured as close to real as we're going to get.

Stone, to his credit, went past the politics and controversy that normally embrace his movies, from "Platoon" all the way to "JFK." He, instead, took to the stories of families and friends that lost their heroes on 9/11, and focused the story on two men that actually survived after hours trapped in the rubble at Ground Zero.

Is it too soon? Five years is a long time, but surely the memories of Sept. 11, 2001 are all too fresh in our minds. Yet, as Stone said in an interview last May, it's history "shaped by collective memory, what I hope one day will be seen as truth."

And the wonderful thing about movies is, it's up to you to decide.

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