Even after sixteen years 9/11 is a raw wound from which the city of New York has never fully recovered. Even when separated from the site of the tragedy one can feel the raw, pulsing nerves of the city as it struggles each year to put the pieces back in order the way they used to be. The world stood silent on that day when the Twin Towers were destroyed, utterly shocked and appalled at the blatant act of terrorism that had been instigated not in a war zone but in a heavily populated city. Most 9/11 films have either bashed people over the head with the act in recent years or have somehow managed to dance around the issue with the type of behavior that is borderline disrespectful to full out thoughtless. The 25th Hour is perhaps one of the few movies that has really respected how much the tragic day affected the city.
The story itself was meant to be just another crime story that Spike Lee was going to push to the public in the same manner he’s always done. But since 9/11 occurred just before he got started he wisely adapted his movie to take place about a year after the event and in doing so captured the raw, unfettered feelings of the city that had been so wronged and was still smarting from the heavy blow it had been dealt. 9/11 after all was something that made the world stand up and take note as people had to somehow adjust to the fact that America had just been subjected to one of the hardest doses of reality we’d ever seen.
This wasn’t like Pearl Harbor. The enemy wasn’t bombing a military target, they weren’t aiming at warships that could have been used for a retaliatory strike. They struck at the heart of the city of New York, they struck out the base of the country’s military strength, and they did so in one of the most cowardly ways possible. The city was not about to recover from such a blow that simply, and The 25th Hour shows just how emotional and on edge the city still is after the attack. Lee did a great job of showing just how edgy and nervous people still were after the attack, giving a very real feeling of intense fear that came from not knowing just when another attack might come.
Lee manages to craft the movie in such a way that the ruins of the towers are able to be seen in several shots and the depressing feel that has been around for almost two decades was still very fresh and inescapable during the film. In some cases The 25th Hour left a bad taste in people’s mouths that somehow didn’t detract from the story line and made it even more important. That overall pervasive feeling of uncertainty and possible danger existed throughout the movie and set the tone for a New York that was for some time completely shell-shocked and teetering on the brink between despair and unshakable resolve.