Netflix’s Worth was right not to show the 9/11 terrorist attack. Worth tells the true story of the lawyer Kenneth “Ken” Feinberg (Michael Keaton) who was appointed by Congress to determine the financial amount to be distributed to each of the victims after the tragedy. From iconic heroes like Batman to the worst villains, Keaton has played all types of characters. In Worth, he is the Special Master of the Victim Compensation Fund who must try to put a price tag on human life.
Although the film obviously revolves around the 9/11 attacks, it never really shows them. The violence of the attack is not depicted, and the devastation is largely alluded to rather than dramatized. Worth does not try to immerse the viewer in the violence — instead, it emphasizes the tragedy of the lives lost with details such as the endless wall of missing person posters. The movie rightly understands that audiences do not need to see this tragedy unfold in order to comprehend its devastating impact.
Worth is not a movie about 9/11, but about its impact on individuals afterward. Depicting the actual attack would have distracted from the movie’s focus on the true stories of the survivors and victims’ families, giving the spotlight to people like widower Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) who founded the “Fight the Fund” advocacy group. Tucci plays a grief-stricken man who just wants the Victim Compensation Fund to be fair. By focusing on individual stories of those affected by the attack, the audience can achieve a greater understanding of 9/11’s effect on the American population.
Ken learns of the attack while on a train, eventually seeing the billowing smoke from the Pentagon in the distance — but viewers only see the smoke via the window’s reflection, with Keaton’s look of distraught disbelief being the focus of the image. In this way, audiences have no choice but to experience the events secondhand by taking in Ken’s response. Although some films based on tragedies, like Titanic, might prioritize the event over real people to create a more visually exciting movie, Worth leans away from these inclinations. The closest Worth gets to recreating the 9/11 attack is in the very beginning: The movie opens with a blank screen as viewers hear sounds of planes flying overhead, sirens, and then voices. People attempt to describe how they feel through the shock at losing so many lives so suddenly. This is followed by a close-up of a woman talking about her deceased son.
Emphasizing intimate losses helps the 2021 movie Worth honor the events of 9/11 without exploiting the tragedy for cheap thrills. Ultimately, the Netflix film did not focus on the 9/11 terrorist attacks because doing so would have been disrespectful to the survivors and victims’ families, who were the real focus of the film. Worth does include short clips of archive news footage, but even this small amount of footage from that day is enough to give audiences chills.