Sunday, 20 September 2020
United 93
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 02 May 2006 21:11

It is a day that most of us will never forget. We vividly remember gazing wide-eyed at television sets in our homes, workplaces, or shopping malls, as America came under attack. September 11, 2001 marks a turning point in history when the United States realized that it too was vulnerable; that the empire may one day fall.

The world watched disbelieving as one airplane after another rammed the World Trade Centre in New York City. Soon after, another hit the Pentagon and yet another hijacked plane was still airborne with an unknown destination. It is the story of this plane, United 93 that has inspired this controversial film.

When I heard that a film about 9/11 was in production the words that popped into my head were “Money Grab”. There was greedy Hollywood trying to make another quick buck off other people’s tragedy. I was wrong. And I’ll tell you why…

United 93 isn’t a commercial film. It’s not a glossy little package with a villain, a hero and a big red bow. In fact this movie is about as raw and unsentimental as you can get considering the subject matter. And that is precisely why it is such a good film.

The movie alternates back and forth with scenes from the Air Traffic Control Center, a military command center and onboard flight 93. In a brilliant move on the part of writer/director Paul Greengrass, many of the workers are actually playing themselves! This pays off in realism as we are flung around the control rooms catching bits and pieces of technical jargon. The low camera angle, filmed almost entirely at eye level, gives a real sense of immediacy. It feels as if you are directly in the middle of the scene at all times.

As the movie opens we hear one of the hijackers in prayer reading from the Koran. The idea of prayer is a strong element throughout the film and it is a powerful realization that both sides were calling upon God to help them. This is just one more war fought in the name of God, with both sides believing they have divine authority.

The course of events aboard United 93 are painstakingly pieced together from now famous phone conversations the passengers had with their families. With amazing clarity and calmness they called their loved ones to say goodbye and to shed some light on the events that unfolded. In one last stand they banded together, attempting to take over the plane from the terrorists. No one knows exactly what happened after, and what the movie depicts is believable. One thing is certain; United 93 never reached its destination. Instead, it crashed into a field killing only those on board.

Perhaps the most important thing that makes this film work is that it lives in the moment and doesn’t predict what the outcome will be. It is not a history lesson, but history in the making. There are no patriotic speeches, no character back-stories, and no political primers. In one scene we see the military officials becoming increasingly frustrated that they can’t get clearance to act from the President. It isn’t divulged that he was sitting in a 2nd Grade classroom and didn’t take action, because we didn’t know that at the time.

It is less than five years after the events took place and many people believe this movie is too much, too soon. I want to say that if there is going to be a movie, it might as well be the right movie. If it is controversial, if it makes us think, if it makes us feel something; isn’t it doing what great movies are supposed to do?

I give United 93 8 out of 10 stars.