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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Twin Towers (2003)

"New York City Emergency Services cops are crossed trained in anything and everything. We go from being a SWAT team one minute, the next minute we could be called to a building collapse, trying to rescue people under rubble."
- NYPD Officer Joe Vigiano, six months before his death on September 11, 2001

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: October 21, 2004

Director: Robert David Port, Bill Guttentag

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (intense images)
Run Time: 00h:34m:05s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 794043635526
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In mid-2001, television producer Dick Wolf (creator of the Law & Order franchise) began filming a reality television pilot with the officers of the New York Police Department's Emergency Services Squad 3. One of the subjects, Joe Vigiano, proved a charismatic figure on-camera. A born and bred New Yorker with a brother on the fire department and a retired fire captain for a father, Joe felt policework was his calling, and stuck with it (and was promoted to the elite ESS, the first response unit and de facto city SWAT team) even after getting shot five times.

On September 11, 2001, Joe's squad was one of the first to respond to the emergency calls from Ground Zero, as was his brother John Jr.'s ladder. Both men were inside the World Trade Centers when they collapsed, trying to help frightened office workers evacuate. Wolf's production company took the footage of Joe shot for the pilot and added interviews with his surviving comrades and family members.

The resulting documentary, Twin Towers (a reference to the headline of a news story about the brothers) puts yet another human face on a very human tragedy. It's yet another tribute, but a striking one, and its Academy Award for best documentary short is well deserved.

It is short—just 34 minutes—and sometimes you can feel the directors stretching (unnecessarily) to give it extra weight by playing up the "brothers" angle, but though there is next to no footage of John Jr., the firefighter, the story of a family that gave so much to help others still holds undeniable power. As always, what gets to me most about 9/11 is not the horrific footage of the planes crashing (though that, too, is powerful, and this piece, with clips from the two French filmmakers who made WTC: The First 24 Hours is some of the most dramatic), but the human response, the disbelieving shock of onlookers torn between a compulsion to run and their brains' efforts to process what they're seeing.

In Twin Towers, that human element is provided through the hero's own words, as we get to know Joe Vigiano in footage shot for Wolf's TV pilot. He talks about what inspired him to become a policeman, how he wound up on the Emergency Services Squad, and his philosophy of life, which basically boils down to "kiss your wife and hug your kids, because you never known if you're coming home." Joe's father John, a retired fire captain, speaks openly about the loss of both of his sons, his voiced tinged with pride and sorrow.

No one film could ever encompass the enormity of 9/11, but Twin Towers delves into one small piece of it with dignity and restraint. Far from manipulative or flag-waving, the footage has been edited together in a way that feels open and honest, a tribute to two men who died trying to save the lives of others, and to the heroes who fight on in their stead.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The piece is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and looks good, considering the source. Images and clean, crisp, and free of video noise, and exhibit good color and detail for footage shot largely with digital video.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Monono

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in DD 2.0 mono, and the track is obviously very basic—just the interviews and score and the live audio from the footage of the attack and collapse itself. It all sounds clean and clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 4 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras. The program is divided into four chapter stops and includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Joe and John Jr.'s story is so heroic, so iconic, that I can't help but think that in 50 years, when someone in Hollywood finally decides to make 9/11 their Pearl Harbor, the two will be pivotal characters. If that's the case, I just hope they're treated with the respect they deserve.


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