Anthony's Film Review
United 93 (2006)
An intensely chilling reenactment of one of America's darkest days...
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have stunned the world like no other. There have been widespread implications with international politics, religion, transportation safety, race relations, psychology, and many other issues just from this one event alone. It's very troublesome for everyone, even for Hollywood. For years, movies about terrorism would take a hiatus, especially anything depicting 9/11 itself. It would take nearly five years before we'd see the first 9/11 drama film when Paul Greengrass gathers the courage to write and direct United 93.
This film is meant to honor the courage and triumph of the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, en route from Newark, NJ, to San Francisco, CA, who fought back against four Middle Eastern hijackers. While this is true, I should clarify that the film also recounts the events with the other three doomed commercial jets. Therefore, it's a dramatization of all of the 9/11 attacks, not just one of the four. If you watch this movie, you will likely relive the horror and fear of that day in addition to the uplifting moment of bravery at the end. And if, for personal reasons, you choose to wait a while before watching this movie or decide not to see it at all, it's perfectly fine.
With that said, let me describe how this film looks. Only one word could perfectly describe it: realistic. Various unknown actors were gathered to portray the people on United Flight 93. The real-life families of these 40 passengers and crew contributed to the film by providing details of their loved ones, which the actors could bring to the screen. Also, some of the actual air traffic controllers who witnessed the events of 9/11 unfold from their work environments appear in this movie as themselves, reliving the moments they experienced. There is no sign of a Hollywood formula with big-name actors or even a central character as the focus. Instead, the film gives equal importance to all characters.
The film also takes a real-time approach such that the running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes covers roughly the same amount of time on the morning of 9/11. We see four Middle Eastern men getting past airport security, the United 93 passengers at the terminal gate, and air traffic controllers doing their usual work. The first half of the movie centers on the air traffic controllers and officers at a NORAD command center as they learn of a hijack. This is done step by step. The very first sign of terrorism is not the news footage that ordinary people like you and I saw that day (though, as a warning, brief clips of it are in this movie). Rather, it's when the airspace radar shows an unusual path being taken by American Airlines Flight 11, accompanied by suspicious audio communication from its cockpit. From there, it gradually becomes increasingly dramatic.
While this is happening, there are shots of the crew, passengers, and terrorists on United 93, but things are calm for the moment. Eventually, the terrorists strike, killing a few innocent people and scaring the rest. This spectacle is just as frightening as the movie's first half. You don't see what happens on board the other flights, and that's fine. The events on United 93 are enough and likely represent the horrors of the other three flights. As this part of the film moves on, the passengers and crew of United 93 go through continuing fear, discovery of suicide terrorist missions in New York, and acceptance of their inevitable death. This leads to a heart-wrenching finale where they come together and perform one last act of bravery before it's all over.
United 93 is truly one of the saddest and most chilling movies I've ever seen, but I think it's great because of it. It's a reminder that when people come together, even for a short time in the most adverse circumstances, it's something to always remember. We should always take that to heart no matter who we are or what we do in life. Again, if you don't feel comfortable watching a 9/11 movie such as United 93, there's nothing wrong with that. After all, there are other ways to honor the 40 Americans on United Airlines Flight 93, such as the Flight 93 National Memorial located at the crash site in Shanksville, PA, among many others. By remembering these fallen heroes, we can regain our strength and hope for a better future.
For more information about United 93, visit the Internet Movie Database.