When United 93 was released
in theaters this spring and I saw the coming attractions trailers, I
couldn't help but think that I never wanted to see it. It was too soon
after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. There is not much in the
world, but certain things should never, ever be used for entertainment
and the events of that day absolutely fall into that category. (I feel
the same about Oliver Stone's recently released World Trade Center.)
Apparently I wasn't the only one who felt that way, because the film was
largely avoided on its theatrical run.
However, at the time, the
critics were almost unanimous in their praise of the movie, so with the
video release looming I have screwed on my courage and decided to view
As you can imagine,
United 93 is an extremely difficult movie to watch. However,
writer/director Paul Greengrass treats his sacred subject matter with the
utmost of respect. The movie does not feel at all exploitative.
United 93 makes no real judgments and chooses no sides; it just makes
the viewer feel like they were there. It tries to give you an idea of
what it may have been like to be on the plane or one of the people charged
with trying to understand and react to the terrible, unthinkable chain of
circumstances which happened that day.
Sledge Hammer! and short-lived Saturday Night Live cast
member Denny Dillon.) Also, many of the people involved in the events
of the day portray themselves. The cast is made up of
mostly unknown actors, as it should be, because star power would just
distract from the story. (The two biggest names are David Rasche of 80s
We do not really get to
know most of the people on the plane not in any way more than the basic
connections that you can make when you are surrounded by strangers in a huge
767. The movie doesn't bog its narrative down with the back stories.
Although they are important and vital and available in other places if you
really need to know of the victims of that day, they are not the concern of
Greengrass instead has
decided to make his movie an almost real time examination of a day that
changed the world forever. The audience sits and watches with dread as
the conclusion that we all know is coming looms in the horizon.
However, as we look at what happened with a shell-shocked hindsight, the
people who experienced it were blissfully unaware what was coming when they
were visited by tragic circumstance. Therefore we are watching them
doing the trite, unimportant things that everyone does while traveling, all
the while the audience has the sickening knowledge that none of them will
In the meantime the people
on the ground scramble to figure out what is happening and try desperately
to avoid further catastrophe. At first they are incredulous at the
idea of a hijacking as they point out there hadn't been one in years
but quickly they become more and more desperate trying to figure out how to
react to what quickly shows itself to be obviously an attack on American
soil. They scramble to find someone to tell them what to do the
President is nowhere to be found, of course we only later learned he was
sitting in a classroom reading a book upside down to kids but these brave
men move heaven and earth to do their jobs and insure safety above all.
The movie doesn't give in to
jingoistic patriotic sensationalism. The utterance "Let's roll..." is
no longer the defiantly aggressive piece of fervor it has been co-opted to
be, it is returned to what it most likely really was, a resigned
acknowledgement of an inevitable duty.
I'm still not 100%
comfortable with the fact that United 93 had to be made, but I do
have to give them credit that they did it as well and as tactfully as they
could possibly have.
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: September 2, 2006.