The Guys (2002) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG for thematic elements and brief language
Running Time: 84 min.
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Anthony LaPaglia
Director: Jim Sumpson
Screenplay: Jim Simpson, Anne Nelson (based on her play)
Review published December 13, 2002
THE GUYS is based on Anne Nelson's play, which was written and performed just a few weeks after the September 11 World Trade Center tragedy of 2001. The play is simple to write, yet difficult as well, because of the subject matter hitting so close to home for Nelson. Although she had spent a good deal of a journalist who wrote on conflicts in Central America, where seeing tragedies first-hand was common, she was still just as shaken as everyone else in the aftermath of New York's most traumatic day.
As a measure of healing through writing, Nelson tells about an account of how she was contacted by a fire captain who was looking for a writer to help him with writing eulogies for the eight firefighters from his station that were killed when the towers collapsed. Nelson changes the names of all involved, including her own, and adds some fictional touches to keep the dialogue lively.
Sigourney Weaver plays the role of the journalist, Joan, who is visited one day by Nick, the fire captain. He has expressed difficulty putting things into words regarding the eight eulogies he would have to write for his fellow firemen, and Joan was referred by her sister as a writer who could help. Joan is very sympathetic, having been moved by the heroics of the firemen, and begins to draw out the details of each of the men, so that she can formulate an appropriate goodbye from the other men they worked with. As Nick's gruff mannerisms and painful recollections draw forth, the two find being able to discuss the situation a cathartic experience, and Joan begins to put a face on some of the many that died on that day.
Although you may think this would be a talky bore of a movie, an impossibly unentertaining recollection of people and things, it actually does manage to draw you in after a bit. That's because the performances by the leads are impressive, with LaPaglia giving one of his best performances ever as a man with heavy thoughts on his mind, but still coping for the good of the unit. There are nice personal touches to the characters, and even some humor amid the much more serious subject matter, so this isn't a depressing affair. Rather it's life-affirming, and will make you appreciate the many sacrifices made by the men and women who tried to rescue as many as they could.
Although I'm not quite sure the impact of this film will hold as the events of September 11 fade into yesterday's news, that doesn't diminish the good writing and some fine acting, and a film unlike any you may have seen before. In commemoration for those many lives lost, this is as touching and fitting as any.
©2002 Vince Leo