Man in Red Bandana (PG-13)

Documentary 85 min. September 8, 2017
By Daphne Howland
Man in Red Bandana details the heroism of Welles Crowther, a young equities trader who perished in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, though not before systematically and audaciously conducting a rescue within the South Tower that may have saved more than a dozen lives.

His grieving parents learned of his actions — enabled by his volunteer firefighter training — because survivors recalled the red bandanna that he'd carried for luck as an athlete and in his Wall Street job, ever since his dad gave it to him at age 6.

Gwyneth Paltrow somberly, painstakingly and bloodlessly narrates the documentary details: the planes' approaches, the pilots' realities, Crowther's mother's discovery of the offhand detail of the bandanna in The New York Times, the gratitude of the survivors who believe they were helped by him that day, and, finally, the charities and tributes inspired by his example. Unsurprisingly, this worthy story has circulated widely, told by President Barack Obama and columnist Peggy Noonan, and in an award-winning 13-minute ESPN story broadcast in 2014.

Based on a book by ESPN correspondent Tom Rinaldi (who also wrote the script), that TV feature's storytelling is more vivid than this doc attempt in nearly every way — including its lush camerawork, deft editing and writing, and the uplift and awe in actor Ed Burns' narration. That short-subject treatment serves as a challenge that, in 80 minutes, writer-director Matthew Weiss doesn't meet.
Matthew J. Weiss Gwyneth Paltrow Matthew J. Weiss RDZ Productions, LLC

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