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Review: 'Worth' (2021) Dir. Sara Colangelo

Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan, Tate Donovan, Laura Benanti, Marc Maron, Talia Balsam, Chris Tardio and Victor Slezak


As the world reaches the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in America, director Sara Colangelo shows how red-tape and politics could put a price on a valued human life...

Days after the 9/11 terror attacks across America, lawyer Kenneth Feinberg (Keaton) accepts a job to get a minimum of 80% of claimants to agree not to sue the airlines, or else risk an economic fallout that would be unlike nothing seen before.

So begins the implementation of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation for each human life lost in the tragedy, but Ken sees that red-tape and the law don't make the process easy, especially for the hurting loved ones, to comprehend.

Ken comes across widower Charles Wolf (Tucci) who lost his wife in the attacks, and soon finds that the process to agree on how much a human life is really worth is something not everyone is happy to agree on and will fight for true justice...

When is a job just a job? When should deadlines be changed? What does it mean to be impartial? Dealing with the fallout from the September 11th 2001 terror attacks on America was an almost impossible task for all involved - the professionals and the loved ones hurting. Yet for lawyer Michael Keaton and his team, it's one step harder when they are tasked to put a value on human life to settle compensation claims and prevent officials being sued.

Keaton plays real life American lawyer Kenneth Feinberg who takes the job on to initiate and run the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The fund is there to compensate loved ones of those lost in the attacks, but Feinberg must ensure that 80% of those who claim agree not to sue the airlines or risk a huge economic meltdown. As if one task isn't hard enough when dealing with something so raw, so emotional and so harrowing as that, Feinberg also must negotiate the value of a life.

Feinberg is forced to admit down the path that he can't change the flaws in the fund, but it's on his shoulders to get the families to commit to it and avoid legal battles. Keaton once more proves how often under-rated he is as an actor but how brilliant he is - more so in his later years across a number of genres. Here he carries the film with his determination not to fail in his job, but to battle so much along the way that you pray his tough exterior shell doesn't crack. There's a welcome fragility to Keaton that is never over-played, but it's there thanks to his ability to convey strong emotion with his voice and physical stance.

For an event so well known to millions around the world, and on the 20th anniversary, this drama focuses on the grieving families and loved ones personally affected by the tragedy, not just the Government or country as a whole.

Stanley Tucci plays Charles Wolf who launches 'Fight The Fund', determined to fight back against the Government who think a formulae can equate to compensating a human life. He's fighting for his wife and the thousands of others lost who are not motivated by the dollar bill, and proving that they are seen as figures on a spreadsheet and nothing else. Tucci is perfect against Keaton and playing a simmering figure who doesn't need to fight hard or shout or scream to make his point - he's calculating and methodical in his statistics, being a man who knows the hard facts of the terror attacks and not akin to staying on the rules laid out by the fund. It's Tucci who makes Keaton's job near impossible to complete, but opens his eyes to the position he is in and the moral compass leading him forward.

While the topic is undeniably etched in people's minds, even such around the anniversary, this story refrains from focusing too much on the day itself. The story is set over the course of two years as the claims are investigated and the families are invited to share their views to the likes of Keaton and his colleague Camille Biros, played with great delicacy and fragility by Amy Ryan. The overall feeling of this story is for director Colangelo keeping the pacing gentle, the environments very ordinary and the settings corporate and mundane, such as offices or boardrooms. This helps give the story a very humane feel, hitting home the everyday people just doing their job in a very extraordinary situation.

This is a story exploring the bleaker and more complex side of the fallout by those trying to do jobs that could be classed as inhumane. Not Governments trying to protect a nation, declare war or spy on the enemy as we have seen in other 9/11 films, but ordinary folk forced to do extraordinary things in terms of either their day job or their morals.

It's fiction, but heavily based on fact and nothing about this feels far-fetched or glossed over for entertainment purposes. For the first time we look at the tragedy for those who live with the pain of loss following the attacks, and share an engrossing story that pushes human triumph over corporate adversity, and looking at humans as real people, not just figures or funds.

Michael Keaton shines in this hard-hitting but uplifting drama that feels a lot more humane than any 9/11 film that has come before, with great performances telling a very important story.

'Worth' is a co-production between MadRiver Pictures, Riverstone Pictures, Royal Viking Entertainment, Sugar23, Anonymous Content and Higher Ground Productions

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