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Bill Guttentag, Robert David Port
Writing Credits:
Bill Guttentag, Robert David Port

A 2003 Academy Award recipient for Best Documentary short, Twin Towers is a moving profile of the New York Police Department's Emergency Service Unit, located in the South Bronx. We are introduced to those who work there prior to September 11, 2001, and then we revisit the unit after the tragedy, which claimed the lives of 14 of the 23 officers who were stationed there.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 34 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/12/2004

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Twin Towers (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 19, 2004)

As one might expect, the mass of programs related to September 11, 2001, hit the streets for its first anniversary. A few bits popped up in September 2003, but not too many. Though the same pattern held for the third anniversary, we get at least one significant release shortly after that date: Twin Towers, the flick that won the 2003 Oscar for Best Documentary Short.

In 2001, Law and Order producer Dick Wolf prepped a reality about a squad of New York City policemen. We learn that of the 23 NYPD officers who died that day, 14 came from the Emergency Service Unit that was the focus of Wolfís show. We jump back six months prior to 9/11 and meet some of the officers on Truck 2. This crew includes Joe Vigiano, Danny Coan, Bobby Yaeger, Mike Curtin, Greg Abbate, Tom McDonald, Mario Zorovic, Mark DeMarco, Richard Winwood, Owen McCaffrey, Tom Buda, as well as NYPD Police Commissioner (Retired) Bernard Kerik and Vigianoís father John.

The program introduces us to the various men and the duties of the Emergency Service cops, who perform a variety of tasks from staging drug busts to rescuing kids from icy water. We get to know the guysí personal lives, histories and personalities. We see them in action as well in scenes that show a mix of jobs. We also watch a ceremony for Vigianoís promotion, as that officer gets the most attention during these portions of the show.

All of this occurs in the programís first half, while the second follows the events of 9/11. We donít see footage of Truck 2 on that day and instead get general footage along with interview statements from related personnel. The program finishes with Vigianoís funeral.

Towers only fills 34 minutes, which seems awfully brief. Its running time acts as both a positive and a negative. On the problematic side, we donít get as good a feel for the various officers as Iíd like. Clearly the filmmakers made the choice to focus on Vigiano, and Iím fine with that. It doesnít seem like an insult to the others, for Vigiano acts as a representative for all of them. However, we really donít find as much background on Vigiano as we should get to fully flesh out our impressions of him. He comes across more as a symbol than as a person at times.

On the other hand, the ďless is moreĒ approach means that Towers concentrates on the meat and doesnít veer off onto unnecessary tangents. Instead, it moved along well and gave us just as much as we needed to understand and appreciate its subjects. The film exists as a tribute to the men of Truck 2; yes, it particularly emphasizes Vigiano, but it seems clear that itís meant to show us the sacrifice made by all the officers. It does this well.

Due to the focus on Vigiano, the program ďspoilsĒ its ending; we know full well heíll be one of the 14 who died on 9/11. However, this doesnít rob Towers of any power. Instead, this knowledge fills us with a feeling of foreboding and dread as we know whatís coming, and it still punches us in the gut when the inevitable occurs.

The producers of Towers apparently werenít at work on 9/11, for it looks like all of the showís footage from that day emanates from alternate sources. This doesnít cause any distractions, though, as the piece melds various elements well. The use of interviews ties all these together. It lacks the tough immediacy of 9/11 - still the best program related to that day - but it compensates well with passion and emotion.

Make no mistake - Towers will provoke an emotional response. Probably the most moving moment comes from the shots of rescue workers who escort a flag-draped casket from Ground Zero while firefighters salute. We donít learn the identity of the person inside, but this doesnít matter, for it packs a punch anyway.

The same goes for Twin Towers as a whole. It might be a little short, but it commemorates its subject cleanly and strongly. We get just enough of a feel for the officers to appreciate their sacrifice and what happened on September 11. Itís an excellent program.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus F

Twin Towers appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For a program shot under many varied and challenging conditions, Towers looked surprisingly good.

As I noted in the body of this review, Towers mixed footage shot specifically for the project with various outside elements. The latter demonstrated erratic quality but usually seemed as good as one could expect. As for the former, they presented quite solid visuals. Sharpness always looked crisp and detailed, and both shimmering and jagged edges remained minimal. I noticed no edge enhancement, and outside of some light video artifacts in low-light situations, source flaws appeared absent.

Obviously Towers featured natural colors, and the footage captured them well. The various tones always looked concise and dynamic. Blacks were dense and tight, while most low-light shots came across as smooth and discernible. Due to the occasionally rough settings, the latter occasionally could be a bit opaque, but this didnít interfere as much as I expected. Instead, the picture of Twin Towers surpassed my expectations.

Though the DVDís case claims that the program features a monaural mix, instead I found a Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack. Not that this meant it displayed enormous scope. Most of the audio still concentrated on the center channel, but effects and especially music occasionally broadened to the side speakers. Neither of these seemed especially well delineated, but they expanded well enough to add some dimensionality to the experience. The surrounds also occasionally added a little depth, though most of the material stayed firmly bound to the front.

Another surprise came from the quality of the audio. Speech sometimes seemed a bit edgy, but most of the dialogue was nicely natural and distinctive. Effects came straight from the source material, so they lacked much vivacity, but they seemed more than competent given their origins, and they added some bass when logical. Music was bright and dynamic, with good clarity and dimensionality. This soundtrack didnít stand out from the crowd, but it proved better than anticipated.

Unfortunately, Twin Towers comes with no supplements. Thatís too bad, as Iíd have liked to have seen more footage shot with the officers before 9/11, and Iím sure plenty of interview outtakes exist as well.

Despite the absence of extras, Twin Towers stands well on its own. The short program offers a moving tribute to fallen officers and evokes their memory in a positive manner. The DVD presents surprisingly good picture and audio but comes with no supplements. Twin Towers seems a bit pricey at $15 for a 34-minute program, but I recommend that you give it a screening nonetheless.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.625 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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