Written and Directed
by Paul Greengrass
Running Time: 1:51
for language, and some intense sequences
of terror and violence.
United 93 was a brilliant film that showed how the tragedy of 9/11 turned a diverse group of strangers into heroes.
There aren't going to be too many people that don't know the story of flight United 93. On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked a number of airplanes in the United States. It had been decades since a plane was hijacked in the U.S. and at first no one was really sure if it was true, and if so, what to do. As the truth became known, people on the ground were thrown into complete chaos. Air traffic control in various parts of the east coast were having a hard time communicating with each other and with the military. No one truly understood the seriousness of the situation until after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. United flight 93 left from Newark on its way to San Francisco. While in the air, the Trade Center and Pentagon were hit. After the terrorists violently took control of the plane, the passengers started to learn what had happened in the rest of the country. Knowing that their plane was likely to be used in the same manner, they banded together and tried to retake control of the plane. Although they didn't succeed, their heroic act saved the lives of countless others.
The big question people had with United 93 was whether it was too early to tell the true story of what happened that day. Is it still too fresh in the collective conscious of the nation? Have the wounds healed or would this just bring it all back. And at times, the movie is very hard to watch, especially when you know what's coming. Almost five years later and it's still shocking to watch the second plane hit the Trade Center. And knowing what will happen to the people on flight 93 makes it difficult to watch since you know they won't survive. But instead of exploiting tragedy for profit, the filmmakers simply lay out the facts as we know them. It is impossible to know exactly what happened on the plane, but I believe writer/director Paul Greengrass has done an admirable job of not making the passengers into superheroes, and not making the terrorists into caricatures. There can obviously be no defense for what the terrorists did, but you can see the human side of them and I think that's important. Greengrass also made the decision to shoot the movie with mostly a handheld camera to give the film an immediacy, allowing you to be a part of what was taking place. We never get to know the passengers and their background, which also makes you feel like you're there. None of these people knew each other before the flight and had to rely on the fact that they all wanted the same end result. To take control of the plane and not allow the terrorists to do any more damage.
The actors, for the most part, are unknowns, so we can focus on the people rather than the fame. In some cases, people involved in the day were used. The movie was edited in a way to give the movie a frantic feel. Cutting between the plane, air traffic control and the military base allowed us to see, minute by minute, what each group was going through. It was almost complete chaos on the ground as no one had any idea what was going on. Hindsight is always 20/20 but how could anyone realize that terrorists would take a plane full of people and ram it into a building? Certainly somewhere this was thought of as a worst case scenario, but in real life, generally when planes get hijacked, they're either blown up in mid-air, or they're simply flown to another location. The film allows us inside the minds of the people who had to deal with this situation and shows that even though what was happening was tragic, they took control as best they could. And the passengers of flight 93 quickly got over their fears and managed to get together and discuss what to do. People were injured and killed, and everyone panicked, but soon you could see a certain calmness come over everyone. They knew what they had to do, and they did it, and almost succeeded. After the movie ended, there was complete silence in the theater, but everyone was affected by what they saw. At no point could you take your eyes of the screen, even if you cringed at some of the events. And the movie was extremely moving and distressing, but never exploitative. I found it to be a lasting tribute to the men and women who sacrificed themselves so that others could live.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, United 93 was a brilliantly made film that showed the true story of what happened on 9/11. It may be hard to watch for some, but it is an important film and one that should be seen as a memorial for those who died on that tragic day.
Netflix lets you rent, watch and return DVDs from home – Now from only a month!