The Daily Beast

“I had not intended to cry, but I couldn’t think about all those faces without crying,” Howard Lutnick recalls. “It wasn’t up to me. I wasn’t in control.” Lutnick, the chairman and chief executive of the Wall Street trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald, is filmed sobbing a great deal in Out of the Clear Blue Sky, and not only is it impossible to blame him, it’s hard to resist the impulse to join him…

The film is an emotionally draining and yet ultimately heartening documentary that follows Lutnick, a sort of weeping prophet in the spirit of Jeremiah, as he and his surviving co-workers cope with their sorrow, try to save their decimated company, and console the families of the dead…

Among other things, the movie is an object lesson in the human capacity for grace under pressure… but also a lesson in the apparently equal capacity for savagery and idiocy…

Director Gardner does an admirable job of getting Lutnick and other witnesses, including wives, husbands, siblings, and parents of the victims, to bare their souls; they are eloquent and affecting. She also synthesizes their recollections into an epic narrative worthy of her epic subject…

Read full review on The Daily Beast website

NY Times’ DealBook

Howard Lutnick is known best by reputation, for being a ruthless competitor, even by Wall Street’s cutthroat standards.

Those who know Mr. Lutnick, chief executive of bond trading house Cantor Fitzgerald, also agree that he is an incredibly complicated person, and that side of him is explored in a new documentary on Cantor and its comeback from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The film, “Out of the Clear Blue Sky,” tracks Mr. Lutnick’s public journey from victim to villain and back again…

The firm’s story is well known, but “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” — which weaves together interviews with Mr. Lutnick, family members of those who were killed, home video and rarely seen clips of Cantor executives from the months after the attacks — draws Mr. Lutnick out in a way that has not been seen before publicly.


Television’s role… is s key aspect of Danielle Gardner’s complex, compelling documentary. As Out of the Clear Blue Sky recounts the trauma from a particular set of perspectives—that of Cantor Fitzgerald, the bond trading firm located on the top five floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the firm that lost 658 people, over two thirds of its workforce—it reveals how TV turned out to be a source of both order and confusion.

This because reports were uncertain and wrong, as images were chaotic and “like a movie,” as people and, eventually, hopes were lost, utterly…

Revealing how such survival demands extraordinary capacities and qualities, not always admirable and not always easy, the movie pays tribute to all who survive, still.

Read full review on the PopMatters website

College Movie Review

Out of the Clear Blue Sky is so well done that I can mostly avoid the awkward situation of having to say something bad about it. The film is moving. It is as raw a treatment of grief as ever there was. And everyone in the country should see it…

The film is an exploration in trust and epistemology—perception versus reality. How do we know what’s real? It’s a theme even more relevant to today’s media mobs than it was in 2001. In the mad dash to get a few more views, a few more hits, a little bump in ratings, the events of history are crafted into narratives—with the incentive to interpret facts and events in ways that will easiest and fastest become an archetypal narrative…

Out of the Clear Blue Sky is a lesson in business leadership, in dealing with grief, and a poignant reminder of what is truly important in life.

Read full review on the College Movie Review website

The Hot Pink Pen

One of the revelations of Out of the Clear Blue Sky is how many of the 9/11 victims were related to one other and the special burden this placed on the survivors…

These are human stories, yes, but told collectively this is also a story about America and how we do business…

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, Gardner is in a position to ask us all essential questions: What is heroism? What is villainy? Did we, as Americans, really learn anything from 9/11?

Forget everything you think you know, set aside all the platitudes, and see this highly engaging and deeply moral film for yourself. We owe it to the past, but more important, we owe it to the future.

Read full review on The Hot Pink Pen website

The Hollywood Reporter

There is no shortage of 9/11 stories to be told, and filmmaker Danielle Gardner relates a particularly fascinating one in her documentary “Out of the Clear Blue Sky”. This account of the travails suffered by Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street investment firm that lost a staggering 658 of its employees, has enough dramatic twists and turns to fuel a miniseries.

Read full review on the Hollywood Reporter website

Slant Magazine

As is the case with so many tragedies that defy comprehension, there seems to be a limitless supply of stories, many still waiting to be told, about the 9/11 attacks. “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” emphasizes at the outset that this is only one of them, focusing primarily on the loss of life that took place in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald… Through tastefully conducted interviews with CEO Howard Lutnick and several dozen surviving employees and family members, the film is a testament to human resilience, showing “how broken hearts can heal each other.”… Gardner’s film is almost elliptical in nature, lacking any overt narrative or clear structure. This approach lends the proceedings an intimate, diary-like quality that acutely conveys the trauma experienced by its subjects following the attacks, and what’s most affecting is the recognition of private and public pain and how the barrier between the two was shattered by the extremely public nature of this mass-death spectacle… In telling this story, “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” presents an ideal recourse for people who must begin their lives anew, and by de-emphasizing politics in favor of humanitarianism, Gardner’s work also suggests how Americans might yet unify even as the world around them threatens to tear itself apart.

Read full review on the Slant website

NY Times

How does a company continue to do business when all of its infrastructure and more than two-thirds of its work force have been wiped out in a single day? That’s one of the questions asked, and answered, by “Out of the Clear Blue Sky,” Danielle Gardner’s eloquent insider documentary about the Sept. 11 destruction and subsequent rebirth of the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald… Tracing Mr. Lutnick’s public journey from modest hero to vilified executive and back again, Ms. Gardner (who also lost a brother in the attacks) assembles a carefully edited selection of video footage and interviews into a fascinating study of a man, and a firm, deeply changed by catastrophe.

Read full review on the NY Times website

JCC Greenwich

“Out of the Clear Blue Sky” isn’t the first documentary about 9/11, but its chronicle of bond trader Cantor Fitzgerald tells a uniquely epic tale of a corporate family… Among the company’s survivors was CEO Howard Lutnick, who arrived — at the moment the planes did — after accompanying his son on his first day of kindergarten. Lutnick’s brother, Gary, wasn’t so fortunate. Nor was filmmaker Danielle Gardner’s brother, Douglas. Her personal connection permeates the movie and adds to its raw intimacy. “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” plunges into the murky grey Ground Zero and beyond to chart how the employees, the chief executive and the company itself rose from the ashes in hopes of rebirth. In the process, it explores poignant questions. What does it take to bring back a business from near death? Which is more ethical, letting that business go or focusing on the bottom line?

Read full review on the JCC Greenwich website

Susan Granger

On September 11th, there’s a one-night, nationwide theatrical event, “Out of the Clear Blue Sky,” in which documentary filmmaker Danielle Gardner relates the story of Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street bond trading firm that lost 658 employees during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center… This documentary traces two interconnected stories:  the staggering impact on the bond business and the heartbreaking relationship between [President/CEO] Howard Lutnick and the distraught, grieving families… Having lost her brother Doug that fateful day, Danielle Gardner was determined to expose the very real, mostly unknown, private side to that very public experience… “Out of the Clear Blue Sky” is a compelling, insider’s poignant view of the harrowing tragedy.

Read full review on the Susan Granger website