Critics Polarized by Film's 9/11 Ending

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With Twilight star Robert Pattinson in the lead role and a heart-wrenching script worthy of a romantic drama, Remember Me is memorable for many reasons. But those reasons have been lost in the avalanche of commentary over the movie's tragic, controversial twist: The hero dies in the September 11th terrorist attacks.

In a stunning final scene, moviegoers expecting a happy ending have watched in horror as Pattinson's character meets his end in the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Though the film doesn't show the planes hitting the Twin Towers, it ends with shots of debris from the buildings.

Director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Will Fetters have not claimed a larger social context for the ending, leaving the issue open to the blogosphere. The jarring ending has elicited strong opinions on all sides, as critics have lined up to condemn or praise the use of 9/11 in such an ancillary role.

  • A 'Drastic Miscalculation' The A.V. Club's Scott Tobias is appalled by the ending, arguing it obscures everything else about the movie and minimizes the entire story. "When the film finally goes for broke with that ambitious, colossally misconceived finale, a tremendous emotional investment in these characters is necessary to pull it off—and even then, its prospects would be questionable," he contends. "Some things simply defy dramatization."
  • Forces Us All to Remember "Until now, most of the art to come out of September 11 has been targeted to adults," writes Newsweek's Ramin Setoodeh, who lauds Coulter and Fetters for presenting the tragedy of 9/11 in a way that forces their target audience to remember--and feel--the emotions of that day.
Remember Me is targeted to a different demographic: teenage girls, many of whom were very young in 2001. For them, September 11 is probably a distant memory or maybe even just a lesson in a history book, especially for kids who didn't live in New York or Washington. Given that measure, this movie accurately depicts the horror, danger, grief, rage, meaninglessness, and brutality of that day. It actually honors history, albeit in a strange and unsettling way.
  • Everyone Can Relate At Big Hollywood, Darin Miller offers a clinical measure of support for the ending. "The film depicts events we can all relate to. The film’s ending should work for most late-teens, college students and recent graduates, who have grown up during the historical events it depicts."
  • Ending Obscures an Otherwise Good Movie One of the most insightful takes on the movie comes from industry giant Roger Ebert, who eschews the social ramifications of using 9/11 and argues the ending is a misguided attempt to create an emotional attachment to the characters. 
These people and their situation grow more involving as the movie moves along. Then there's a perfect storm of coincidences to supply the closing scenes. That's what I object to.

If we invest in a film's characters, what happens to them should be intrinsically important to us. We don't require emotional reinforcement to be brought in from outside. The movie tries to borrow profound meaning, but succeeds only in upstaging itself so overwhelmingly that its characters become irrelevant.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.