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With: Gwyneth Paltrow (narrator)
Written by: Matthew J. Weiss
Directed by: Matthew J. Weiss
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving disaster-related images and descriptions
Running Time: 75
Date: 09/08/2017

Man in Red Bandana (2017)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Towering Achievement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though Matthew J. Weiss's documentary looks and sounds awfully low budget, is simplistic in structure, and struggles fill out its 76 minutes, it is blessed with an amazingly powerful and moving story.

In Man in Red Bandana, the true story of Welles Remy Crowther is told. His parents, friends, and family talk about his childhood in Nyack, New York, especially his favorite fire engine toy, and his eventual love of sports (hockey and lacrosse). As a kid, his father gave him a red handkerchief that he always carried. Upon graduating college in Boston, he landed a job as an equities trader in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

During the 9/11 attacks, Welles discovered an undamaged staircase, and, wearing his red bandana over his face, kept running back up the stairs and showing more and more people the way down. He himself disappeared in the rubble (his body wasn't discovered until months later), but it is estimated that he saved at least ten, and possibly up to 18, people. His legacy is now remembered and celebrated, and he has even been made an honorary New York City firefighter.

Using clips of news footage interspersed with talking head interviews, and narration by Gwyneth Paltrow, the sound is startlingly uneven (sudden increases in volume are shocking). The composition of the interviews is largely artless, and, in truth, Man in Red Bandana is not a particularly visual or polished movie. It seems more suited as an instructional video for a boardroom meeting than for commercial release.

Moreover, it presents Welles Remy Crowther almost as a saint, with interviewees saying nothing but good things about him. As a person who actually lived, he's still a mystery, almost unrelatable, but as a hero, he's most inspiring.

Diagrams of his progress within the tower help to underline his feats, and seeing footage of the people he saved, his mother, and President Obama makes one realize the impact Welles actually had. By the movie's end, there will be tears and applause. (Stay for the credits to hear a new song by Lyle Lovett.)

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