Spike Lee’s most significant New York film since his breakthrough, “Do the Right Thing”, revolves around the last day of freedom for Monty Brogan (Norton), a convicted drug dealer about to embark on a seven year stretch in prison. Lee sets the tone of a post-9/11 New York with an opening shot of two light beams piercing the night-sky of where the World Trade Center once prominently stood. Later in the film the 9/11 references intensify when Monty’s friend Jacob (Hoffman) picks up another friend, Francis (Pepper), from a Manhattan apartment. Upon arrival, Jacob is shaken by the view for it overlooks New York’s most depressing sight, Ground Zero.
Frank and Jacob discuss Monty’s bleak future while workers clean out the debris of the former site. Lee projects the gravity of the tragic departures of thousands of Americans through Monty’s loss of freedom.
“After tonight, it’s bye bye Monty”, concludes Jacob. Things won’t ever be the same again for them after their friend leaves for prison. The same can be said about how New Yorkers felt after the loss of the towers.
Lee’s stroke of genius is in mirroring the potential effect of Monty’s doomed future with the weight of 9/11 on the shoulders of contemporary New Yorkers. He does it subtly at first with the gloomy acreage only lurking in the background. The scene ends with Lee solidifying the connection using a montage of the wreckage. It marks the first time for a motion picture to be shot at Ground Zero.