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Case Number 02174

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9/11: The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition

Paramount // 2001 // 129 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 11th, 2002

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All Rise...

The Charge

We will never forget.

Opening Statement

"Hell's brewin' dark sun's on the rise
This storm'll blow through by and by
House is on fire viper's in the grass
A little revenge and this too shall pass"

—Bruce Springsteen, "Lonesome Day"

Only a handful of us know what it was like to be in New York City on the morning of September 11th, 2001. For the rest of us it was life as usual. We got up, made some coffee, and got ready for work or school. The kids needed breakfast. The car was scheduled for a muffler change. And then we turned on our TVs. Some of us saw the first plane hit, while others witnessed the second plane's decent into one of the Towers. From that point on, most of us stopped what we were doing and just watched, flabbergasted. Back in New York City, brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were following a NYC fire department rookie around and filming him for a documentary they were making on firefighters. On September 11th they got more than they bargained for. Paramount's release of 9/11 is the brothers' first hand account of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

Facts of the Case

"The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me, Then you disappeared into dust
Up the stairs, into the fire"

—Bruce Springsteen, "Into The Fire"

9/11 is a gritty, first hand look at the events of 9/11 through the eyes of documentary filmmakers Jules Naudet and Gedeon Naudet. The project they began making in the summer of 2001 was about a young up and coming firefighter named Tony. The videotape chronicled Tony's start at a NYC fire station—his training, his hazing, and the eventual ride to his first fire. As the documentary progresses we meet some of Tony's co-workers and superiors. On September 11th, Jules and his brother Gedeon followed the firefighters (the first to the WTC tragedy) to the scene and would become part of history as they documented every aspect of the attacks, from the first plane hitting to the eventual cleanup of Ground Zero.

The Evidence

"Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearing the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin' down here"
—Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"

And in an instant both World Trade Centers dissolved into a billowing cloud of blackness. It was something that none of us could believe, yet there in front of our TV sets was proof that the unthinkable had occurred. Do you remember where you were?

I remember where I was as clearly as it was yesterday. I was in from California at my parent's suburban Chicago home for my brother's bachelor party. The party had been in Wisconsin the weekend before and had been a rousing success. Beer, bars, and beach fun. Things had gone off without a hitch (unless you call a minor hangover a "hitch"). On the morning of 9/11 my mother came into my room where I was sleeping and woke me up, babbling about an accident being shown on TV. I stumbled downstairs, not particularly interested in what was going on (keep in mind this was at around 7:00AM Chicago time, and I was still recovering from the weekend). Then I saw the first plane hit in a replay. I was instantly awake. Jolted out of sleep. I'll admit that at first I was more curious than upset—let's face it, New York is a long way off, and from my vantage point the scene looked like an action movie being replayed on TBS. Suddenly, the second plane hit. It was clear this was no accident. My mother hovered next to me, her hand shadowing her mouth.

I remember bits and pieces of that day. I remember watching the first WTC tower come down. It was the first time I can remember physically crying while watching the news. It seemed like too much to bear. All those people trapped in that tower. People who had gone to work, had families, had weekend plans. Gone. Then the second tower came down. I heard my mother in the background audibly gasp. My brother called from work and said he was coming home from downtown Chicago; they were apparently evacuating the Sears Tower. Then I read on the Internet that the Pentagon had been hit. At this point in the game it felt as if anything could happen. Remembering back, it felt as if news was coming in from all directions. Planes had been hijacked. Some were unaccounted for. One went down in Pennsylvania. Faulty reports about car bombs outside of the White House. For the first time in my life—heck, in a lot of people's lives—the United States, the place where I lived, was under attack.

"Blood on the streets
Blood flowin' down
I hear the blood of my blood
Cryin' from the ground"

—Bruce Springsteen, "Empty Sky"

The days passed. I remember having dinner with my family and discussing the attacks, what America was doing about it, and what it all meant to our lives. One thing was clear—our way of life was different. It had changed drastically in the span of only a few moments. It sounds clichéd now, but the truth was obvious: we had lost our innocence. The last time a tragedy on this scale had occurred was at Pearl Harbor in 1941. While no one my age will argue that it was a black mark in American history, the fact is that it was a long time ago. People my age hadn't been exposed to large scale wars or an attack on American soil—that is, until September 11th, 2001.

A few weeks later I ended up going back to California. I wasn't quite as nervous to fly as I had anticipated. I know that I looked around at the different nationalities and wondered "what if?" What if these people—who were clearly of a different race, religion, and background—were carrying bombs? Or wanted to hijack the plane? In my mind I was acting ignorant, racist and very un-Christian. And yet I couldn't help it…this was part of the tragedy of 9/11. My thoughts had been clouded as thickly as when the two towers collapsed into smoke and dust.

"There's spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord, as I stand before your fiery light"

—Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"

And yet September 11th hadn't diminished the American spirit. While we still haven't caught Osama bin Laden (if, indeed, he's still alive), we still have faith that we will prevail. We banded together and helped each other. Blood donations and charity concerts seemed to come out of nowhere. A week ago I attended a church seminar where Lisa Beamer (widow of flight 93 hero Todd Beamer) spoke about hope amidst chaos and tragedy. The heart of her message was this: God has a plan and he is always with us. While we may not like what's happened, sometimes we have to rise above the hate and sorrow and face each new day as it comes.

God has a plan. And maybe, just maybe, that plan is for America to become a stronger, more tolerant nation. One nation, indivisible. Just like Lisa's faith in God.

Closing Statement

"May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love bring us love…"

—Bruce Springsteen, "Into The Fire"

As you can see, this wasn't as much a review of the 9/11 disc as it was a personal recollection of that horrible day. I just didn't feel like I could review something of this nature—the film is what it is, a flashpoint in time. It is a startling look at one of the most defining moments in our nation's history, and it is well worth seeing. For those that are interested, the film is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound in English (no subtitles are available). A few extra interviews by various firefighters are also included on the disc.

The Verdict

9/11 will live on as a suspended moment in our nation's history. This DVD is a record for us, for our kids, and for generations to come. It is a record to remind us of the evil man can create, and the good that will always rise above it.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Bonus Interviews


• None

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Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.