World Trade Center - Anatomy of The Collapse
Artisan // Unrated // $19.98 // August 20, 2002
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted September 3, 2002
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The project of figuring out what happened on September 11th encompasses politics, economics, history and emotion. But there was another mystery that needed to be solved: Why did the towers of the World Trade Center collapse less than an hour after the attacks? This question has been asked by a couple of documentaries: A&E's Why the Towers Fell and The Learning Channel's World Trade Center: Anatomy of the Collapse. Of the two, Anatomy of the Collapse is more critical of the design of the towers. It's clear in both pieces that there were some fundamental flaws in the design that made the collapse inevitable once the damage was done but Anatomy of the Collapse has an almost accusatory tone.

The brunt of the criticism is structural engineer Leslie Robertson, who appears in both programs and numerous other pieces on the Trade Center. He's the haunted chief designer of the Trade Center whose punishment, apparently, is to recite over and over for the cameras that he blames himself for the tragedy. It's hard to watch and a responsible filmmaker at this point would drop the issue. (To be fair, it's not clear which program interviewed Robertson first.) His eyes are ringed with heavy lines and his body is hunched over in a serious slouch. There's even one moment when describing some great achievement in his design for the buildings that he works up a bit of enthusiasm and a smile. Then he catches himself referring to the towers in the present tense, corrects himself and clearly all the anguish and self-doubt come flooding back.

The problem with Robertson's design was that, while they were visionary enough to plan the building with a direct hit from the world's largest jet plane at the time (a Boeing 707), they didn't take the jet fuel fire from the explosion into account. They also didn't allow that planes would increase in size over the years. These oversights proved fatal as the trusses that formed the floors and that held the innovative steel tube outer structure to the central core of the building began to warp and bend from the heat. Once the structure of the trusses was compromised it was only a matter of time before the building would collapse in on itself.

At only 45 minutes Anatomy of the Collapse doesn't feel as comprehensive as Why the Towers Fell. The latter featured a number of simulated computer models of the event that made clear exactly what happened to the structure. Why the Towers Fell also was built around the expertise of the investigators conducting the official investigation into the collapse. Anatomy of the Collapse does consult a number of experts but somehow doesn't approach the material with as much of an open mind.

VIDEO:
The full-frame video mostly looks like fine broadcast video. There are moments when the compression is glaringly evident, however.

AUDIO:
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is fine.

EXTRAS:
There are no extras.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
While not as in-depth as another DVD on exactly the same subject matter, World Trade Center: Anatomy of the Collapse goes a good way towards explaining how the damage occurred. For that it's worth a look, but no one needs to see both programs.

World Trade Center / 9/11 Related Reviews
9/11
WTC- The First 24 Hours
New York Firefighters: The Brotherhood of 9/11
Why the Towers Fell
World Trade Center: Anatomy of the Collapse
World Trade Center - A Modern Marvel 1973-2001

Email Gil Jawetz at cinemagotham@yahoo.com



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