Following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Ken Feinberg is an attorney and mediator who is appointed by Congress to lead the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Facing a truly impossible task to determine what each life is worth and realising that it would never be possible to replace a life in this way.
*Original Title* – What Is Life Worth
Camille Biros is the head of operations within Feinberg’s firm and she along with many others within the firm interview family members and victims who have been impacted by the attacks. Charles Wolf is a community organiser who is mourning the death of his wife and creates a rather successful campaign against the Compensation Fund that they are pushing towards the people. The worst thing about it was that they believed using formulas and maths to work out percentages would be the best way, but then that meant saying that some lives were worth a hell of a lot more than others.
This film was released on Netflix just before the 20th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11 and this gave me another aspect that I had absolutely no idea about at all. Thinking how you could even possibly offer families of the deceased money in place of the life they all lost that day. So many holes were found within the set up and along with the formula, different rules applied across different states if the people putting in claims were different to those of Washington and New York it could mean that they wouldn’t get anything.
Knowing that this was based on real life stories certainly made it even more difficult to watch at times, the woman who had found out that her husband had a second family and his death bringing that to light. The gay man mourning his life partner and being told that in the eyes of the law he wasn’t anything. The victims who did not die but have health problems due to being within the area and the symptoms of this not showing up instantly, this was mainly firefighters and other first response workers.
The character development of Ken Feinberg was interesting to see, especially after the initial meeting where he was shot completely down (and rightly so) when he was just reading numbers and figures, not really remembering that those numbers were people who had been killed in the horrendous attacks. We do eventually manage to see him grow, especially when he actually begins speaking to the family members of the victims. He was uncomfortable with that side and his social skills were poor but he eventually improved with that before it was too late to do the job that was set to him by Congress.
It really does manage to highlight the victims stories from a slightly different angle and while the film could have packed a bigger punch with the information and stories that came from what was a very unconnected offer for compensation.
The way the film flowed through the information worked in a good way and was lead by good performances from Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan with Shunori Ramanathan being a total scene stealer at times. The support from Laura Benanti, Chris Tardio and Tate Donovan was good as well.