Much like the war raging currently in Iraq, there will be no shortage of films dealing with the thousands of stories stemming from the vicious violence of Sept. 11, 2001 -- it seems that as a nation, we're only just beginning to come to grips with the psychological wounds inflicted that day. 2006 saw the release of two major Hollywood films -- United 93 and World Trade Center -- which relied upon very different approaches to tonally similar material. Yet as soon as two years past the collapse of the Twin Towers, the damaging of the Pentagon and the downing of United Airlines Flight 93, documentaries and independent films have been tackling the difficult, emotional terrain of that fateful September morning.
Director Glenn Holston's affecting documentary Saint of 9/11 is one more sorrowful voice, a poignant portrait of Father Mychal Judge, a New York City Fire Department chaplain who perished in the fall of the Towers five years ago. Narrated by Ian McKellen, with thoughts from friends, colleagues, congregants and Judge himself via archival footage, Saint of 9/11 pieces together the life of an extraordinary, very beloved man whose existence and work touched the lives of countless people.
Many may have met Father Judge, a Franciscan priest, long before they ever encountered Holston's film; in a striking, iconic image snapped during the aftermath of the first tower's collapse, Father Judge lies dead, carried out from the wreckage of the fallen tower, slumped over in a gruesome tableaux that one participant in the documentary likens to the pieta. What separates Holston's film from mere hagiography is the director's willingness to go behind the heartfelt tributes and poignant sound-bites to explore the complex, restless person that was Father Judge. A devout man who wrestled with his own personal demons -- alcoholism and homosexuality -- was a quintessentially American being; his parents immigrated from Ireland, rendering his tragic death all the more shattering, a true adopted son of our country was embraced by his community and died doing what he truly loved.
Saint of 9/11 is restrained yet reverent, a wonderful, sobering document of a life lived to its fullest and one which touched (and bettered) the lives of so many others -- Father Mychal Judge, as many point out in the film, likely would've resisted being pegged as a saint, but Glenn Holston's deeply moving documentary makes it hard to think of any title more fitting than that.
Saint of 9/11 is presented with a very sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that, save for the archival footage, looks exceptional throughout; the newly filmed interview sequences fairly pop off the screen and betray no noticeable defects of any kind. A solid visual representation.
Holston's film relies primarily upon interviews so the provided Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is more than adequate; there's no drop-out or distortion, McKellan's narration is full and robust, with the minimal score filling in nicely. Optional English subtitles are also on board.
Nary a supplement to be found.
Saint of 9/11 is restrained yet reverent, a wonderful, sobering document of a life lived to its fullest and one which touched (and bettered) the lives of so many others -- Father Mychal Judge, as many point out in the film, likely would've resisted being pegged as a saint, but Glenn Holston's deeply moving documentary makes it hard to think of any title more fitting than that. Highly recommended.