Twenty years ago, the tragically catastrophic story began when planes decimated buildings in New York City and Washington, DC Lives were lost, creating a ripple effect that took our breath away as we poured out tears of sorrow for the innocent victims and the rescuers who tried to save them.
As the rubble began to clear and the sky above grew silent, funerals and memorials began, but the healing process was far from over. Many families no longer had sufficient income to survive.
The government, for many different reasons, has stepped in to help find a solution to compensate the relatives of the victims. But what is each life really worth?
The aptly named new movie “Worth”, now airing on Netflix, takes us back to 2001 and the next two years in which attorney Ken Feinberg took on the pro bono task of developing the formula to answer this question.
Michael Keaton has an Oscar-worthy performance (you’d expect nothing less) as Feinberg. Returning to that horrific morning, we see Feinberg as he witnesses the bombings from the safety of his commuter train window.
It’s painful to watch even 20 years later as we relive these events. Feinberg, a renowned lawyer and near-retirement professor, volunteers and interviews to become the appointed special master of the Victims Compensation Fund.
Feinberg must sign 80 percent of the victims within two years or everything could be lost on compensation. It’s a daunting task and comes down to an exciting race against time, but Feinberg is convinced that he can make everyone happy in the midst of tragedy… until he meets Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) , a community leader and activist who wants to “fix the fund.”
Feinberg is not emotionally prepared to live the firsthand tale of the lives lost and the effects, which makes his financial formula seem barbaric. How can the life of a corporate CEO be worth more than that of a janitor?
“Worth” brings us a complicated story filled with characters, many of whom represent an amalgamation of real people, who touch our hearts and raise questions we never thought about.
Writer Max Borenstein and director Sara Colangelo never lose sight of the story as she ventures down paths to bring us parallel stories of these characters. Wolf’s wife was victimized that day. Karen Donato (Laura Benanti) has lost her husband, a firefighter who had a complicated history. Lee Quinn (Tate Donovan) represents big business looking out for the best interests of his employers and is Feinberg’s nemesis who pushes him to see the photo from a different perspective.
As the story is about Feinberg and his team, made up of his law firm partner Camille (Amy Ryan) and associates – led by Priya Khundi (Shunori Ramanathan) who has her own haunting story to tell – these parallel stories give the film its heart and soul.
Layering all of this down to give us a cohesive and interesting story, as well as entertaining, is as intimidating as finding that formula, but Colangelo does it in a creative way. She brings us into the lives of each of the characters to experience loss, frustration and anger.
It’s a tight script with many moving parts, increasing in speed and all in sync to give us a better understanding of these particular 9/11 consequences. Thanks to talented and seasoned actors, the story never feels artificial and always authentic.
Keaton, of course, embodies real-life Feinberg, a measured man with a heart. His fight between compassion and formulas is palpable in this nuanced performance.
We understand the plight of his character, but we encourage him to do better. Thanks to Tucci’s Wolf, we see an improbable camaraderie developing.
Tucci, an actor who elevates whatever movie he’s in, no matter how small the role is, gives his character the extra layers that bring him to life. We see his pain but we feel his determination and fully understand his motivation. It really is an extraordinary performance.
Ryan’s supporting role as Camile Biros is strong, giving credit to the ability of lawyers to look after the greater good of all.
“Worth” is an exceptional film and one to watch as we remember the tragedy of September 11th 20 years ago.
Reel Talk rating: 4 stars
Pamela Powell is a film critic based in Bourbonnais and a member of the CFCA and CCA and is a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic. Writing reviews for 10 years, Pamela can also be found on WCIA TV in Champaign. It can be emailed to [email protected]