As a legal drama, Worth is decent but it succeeds more like a contemplation on loss.
Published on September 9, 2021
Rating 3.5 /5
The September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center of New York City is an event that is portrayed in film in a few ways. Sometimes it’s an inappropriate melodrama as with World Trade Center and other times it’s a gritty and somber reflection as with United 93. Worth is a film that pulls back and looks at the further extent of the damage the attacks did to others. The inciting incident of the attacks is portrayed in this film from a distance when Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) witnesses the smoke from a train. Throughout the film, he tries to understand such an event when taking on the various cases of helping the victims of the attacks.
Based on a true story, this legal drama takes place over the course of years as Feinberg leads an emotionally draining case for many victims. Fighting for compensation turns out to be a much more difficult ordeal and far more than just another job. He meets with the victims a few weeks after the attacks and there’s great fury in the room he addresses. Many of them are angry, demanding answers and compensation, even going so far as to break out into racist rants about Feinberg being a Jew with malicious intent.
One person who is sympathetic enough to calm the room is Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), a victim who finds himself coping with his recent loss. He is able to handle his grief in his own way of remembering and preserving his past, only letting what-if questions linger for a moment before trying to move on. Charles also becomes the sobering voice of reason to tackle Feinberg’s insensitivity with such a case. The two of them connect well enough with opera but differ in how they approach handling such a landmark case. While Feinberg merely thinks of it as just a sense of duty, Charles notices that Feinberg has no clue about what impact he is having and tries to stress just how out of touch he is on this topic.
Though we mostly follow Feinberg and Wolf throughout this case, we also get to know a handful of victims and caseworkers to witness their turmoil as well. Though slickly edited to hit on key moments, the film remains more of a personal journey than digging too deep into the nuts and bolts of acquiring compensation for those who were deeply affected by the attacks. Interviews of victims are handled with care and passion, where the various caseworkers stress how Feinberg really needs to be there in person to witness what he is fighting for. Eventually, he agrees to sit in and take in the impact he is having.
As a legal drama, Worth is decent but it succeeds more like a contemplation on loss. The performances by Keaton and Tucci are top notch and any moment they share the screen is a real treat. The tragedy of it all is handled with a certain grace that narrowly avoids melodrama. There’s a lot of stories to tell from the September 11th attacks but films like Worth are a cautious reminder that the tragedy did not end when the firefighters and survivors escaped death. The shockwave sent throughout New York City and the world continued to reverberate for years to come, still haunting many to this very day.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.