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9/11 at the Cineplex

The effects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been influencing films ever since—and not just the movies that are specifically about that terrible, tragic day.

As we approach the five-year anniversary of the cataclysmic day in which so much in the world changed, we are reminded that one thing has stayed the same: Hollywood still likes a good story.

With the recent release of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, and April's quiet release of United 93, the first entries (not counting several very good documentaries) in the 9/11-set films have arrived. And though some have cried foul that it's too soon, others have proclaimed the timing of the films entirely appropriate and even essential given the current state of the world.

What people forget is that World Trade Center, United 93, and even A&E's Flight 93—while certainly the most explicitly about 9/11—are not the first to have come out on the subject.  Several films in the last five years have referenced or been inspired by that day, and cinema as a whole has been markedly changed.

Post-9/11 metaphors

One of the most interesting—and overlooked—9/11-influenced films before the recent movies was Spike Lee's 25th Hour, which hit theaters in the winter of 2002-03. The film, ostensibly about one man (Edward Norton) living out his last night in Lower Manhattan before going to prison, was seen by many as a powerful metaphor for post-9/11 New York City.

From the opening credits shot against the two towers of blue light that memorialized the twin towers to the numerous conversations about uncertain futures held in front of windows overlooking the ghostly abyss of ground zero, 25th Hour was suffused with an elegiac mood of a dazed city still in shock.

Critics responded favorably to the film and its portrayal of the post-9/11 world. "Lee takes the spiritual moment and crystallizes it into art," wrote Mike LaSalle of the San ...

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