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The Filmmakers' Commemorative DVD Edition
Running Time: 129 minutes
Directed by: Jules Naudet & Gedeon Naudet and James Hanlon
Retail Price: $19.99
Features: Bonus Interviews
Specs: 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital Stereo, English Closed Captions, Chapters (17 Chapters)
Released: September 12th, 2002
I sit here and write this four days after the one year anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks. Being an American, and born in New York (and residing there), those attacks hit home to me - just like a majority of the United States. But as I sit here and write this, I really don't know what else I can say about the single greatest act of terrorism on American soil, and surely one of the darkest, if not the darkest day in American history. I can go and on about the details, what happened, that it was so tragic... but if you're reading this, you already know that. You lived through it. I can't say or bring anything new to the table. All that I can say is that now we're a bit cautious in our travels, we have darker fears of what can happen to our lives, Osama bin Laden has entered popular culture, there was a greater sense of American pride for a little bit after the attacks, we've heard hundreds of survivor/eyewitness account stories (good for future generations), it was horrendous and the media has overblown everything I just said and much, much more one thousand times over... perhaps making it more traumatic in the process. But yeah, chances are you already knew that.
But I think now that we (as in America) have made it past a whole year, I think we're finally moving on. One year will soon become two. Two will become three. And three will become decades. Decades will become centuries. And soon enough, it'll be a faded day that will always be remembered, but long past gone where the kids will study it in future history textbooks. Time really does fly, and there's no denying that on one single day - yes, on one day - all of our lives changed forever and all of our eyes opened a bit wider.
I think there's something life changing in every decade that affects all sorts of people. It may not be sad, but something that changes our view on people and the world. Certainly, when people talk about that fateful September day, people are quick to compare how people heard to when people in the 1960s heard about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I remember where I was when I first heard about the attack (my friend bursting in screaming into my American history classroom and then having an initial impression that it was some kind of an accident... which was all wrong) and I'm sure you remember too. Yet in going into these attacks... you saw it with your own eyes. What is there to say? You have your own thoughts about America, the events and the aftermath I'm sure, so I have no idea why I'm still babbling on about all this. I probably should have left this medium space blank.
But no, there is a purpose here. The DVD I'm talking about isn't just random footage, it's an amazing, shocking documentary culled from tons of footage that give you a different kind of perspective on the attacks the major networks failed to show a lot of (and probably for good reason: it's scary as hell to be on the inside). "9/11" was a documentary that aired on the CBS network during the spring of 2002. It scored big ratings, and was critically praised for how it documented that disturbing day.
Brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were making a documentary on a New York firefighter. Friends with another firefighter at Ladder 1, James Hanlon, the brothers were getting their scoop. But in a single moment, the focus of that documentary instantly changed. And as Jules Naudet himself puts it, someone's meant to be an eyewitness to certain events, and he was part of that for a reason. As this documentary shows, Jules is the only person to get a video shot of the first plane hitting the first tower. But know, this isn't what makes this documentary stands out from all the others. It's all edited to capture everything you've seen before (people running scared out of their minds) to a lot of things you haven't (firefighters going into the towers to rescue people after the planets hit, showing what it was like to be inside... and now that is downright scary). This documentary is well made, well edited, well told, intriguing and while really hard to watch at times, you can't help but keep watching. Because even though you think you know the whole story, you really don't. Watching this is really, really scary. Even if you've seen it all dozens of times, it's still horrifying. And it always will be.
I've gotten a lot of 9/11 DVDs in the past several weeks, as many studios are putting stuff out to coincide with the anniversary for people who want them. And even though this is one breathtaking documentary, and I do like to put a medium grade on whatever I watch and grade its content, this is something I cannot grade. Yes, it's a documentary on a particular subject. And yes, I've given grades on other documentaries on other subjects on this very site before. But to me, the Naudet Brothers/Hanlon documentary isn't just a documentary. It's really a significant piece of history, and who am I to be the judge of that? It'd be like me grading Hitler or something else important in history ("Oh, Hitler was a terrible guy so I give him a 0/5, but because Hitler's actions impacted the world so much, I'll let that slide and give him a 4/5"). I don't think it's fair exactly, or it should be done.
But it's history. History of a single day in two hours and nine minutes. It's one amazing look at history for that matter, capturing all the sadness, frustration and emotion. And it's something we'll always remember, no matter what.
This documentary was filmed in widescreen in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Unfortuantly, Paramount decided just to rush it out and not bother to anamorphically encode it. Oh well. Otherwise, I'm not really sure what to say. The filmmakers weren't out to create a technical masterpiece in what they were filming (you wouldn't either if you were grasped into such a earth-shattering situation either), and you're certainly not buying this documentary to show off your television or for some show piece. Shots vary, and for good reason. Colors are faded out in some, well saturated in others. There's noise and shimmering, as expected. Grain is there too. Overall, the video quality is good for a documentary like. Personally though, I couldn't care less how it all looks. The documentary's content itself is what's important.
The Dolby Digital English Stereo track is fine for what it is. Yes you'll hear background noises fine, certain sound effects and music here and there. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear. It's all fine, it all works and it's what you would come to expect. Like the video, you probably won't care for the sound quality... but you'll hear all the noises of what went on in the shots. No distortion or any of that or hiss or little things. Again, you're probably not buying this to hear the best stereo mix ever... you'll hear what's going on, and you'll be satisfied. Also included are English closed captions. There is also no menu for chapter stops, but there are seventeen of them in total.
Also included are some Bonus Interviews, which I guess was stuff cut out of the documentary. There are four interview segments, all in non-anamorphic widescreen. There is some interesting and good stuff here, that could probably fit in the documentary if edited right, but it's probably best these were left out for pacing reasons. Nonetheless, you get nearly an hours worth of additional footage here. If you can take it and want more accounts, then you can watch them here. And yes, the disc has none of the Robert DeNiro stuff as shown in the TV broadcast.
What you're getting here isn't some jammed pack set about America or the Twin Towers, but rather, simply a documentary with extra interviews on the most horrific day in American history. If you want some piece of history to relive the craziness and fear of that day, then rest assured that you're getting an excellent documentary on the topic. However, a lot of us, including myself, would prefer to move on. Seeing those planes hit, those towers burn and then have them crumble are images permanently etched in my mind, and will forever stick with me. When I think of that day, that's all I really see in my head. And that is more than enough for me.