United 93

United 93 (2006). 111 minutes, Universal Studios. Directed by Paul Greengrass.

I hadn’t really given this movie much thought when it came out in theaters a few months ago. On 9/11/2001, I remember saying that it would probably be at least five years before they made a movie about it. My prediction seems to have been about right, since both this and World Trade Center came out this year. I haven’t seen World Trade Center yet (it’s not out on DVD, and I haven’t seen a movie in an actual movie theater in quite a while), but I just watched United 93 tonight. Wow.

This is a gut-wrenching movie. It’s very well done – it does not seem exploitative in any way, just gripping. We all know the story, so no point in going into it here. What’s so good about this film is how the filmmakers interweave what is going on around the country – the crash of two planes into the World Trade Center, the crash at the Pentagon, the communications at air traffic control and military command centers – in conjunction with what is happening to the passengers and hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 at the same time.

Despite the fact that I knew exactly how it would end, my palms were sweating half an hour into the movie. I kept wanting to scream “Move! Get going! Kill them now!”, etc. The film makes no political statement or comments at all. Its power arises from the fact the it takes the viewpoint of all the people involved who were simply doing their jobs that day. Watching the FAA and the air traffic controllers grapple with the enfolding situation was particularly emotional. They figured out pretty quickly what was going on, but there was nothing they could do about it. Watching the military, doing everything they could to get planes in the air to intercept the hijacked flights, was also extremely compelling.

The acting is superb. I didn’t recognize any of the actors, and that works very well for this movie. There was not a single performance that struck even a slightly wrong note. Everyone disappears into their roles so effectively that it almost feels like you’re watching the best behind-the-scenes footage ever shot.

If you’re one of those who feel it’s “too soon” for this kind of motion picture, I encourage you to think again, because this really is worth seeing. As you can imagine, this is definitely not a “feel good” type of movie. I would encourage you to watch it in a single sitting with minimal pauses… the momentum is constant, and there are no breaks in the story.

Five years after the fact, it’s worth remembering how true heroes acted on the day of 9/11 itself. Watch this film, and you’ll find yourself pulled into the web it weaves. It’ll help you to forget, at least for a few hours, all of the lies and horrors that have been visited upon us by our leaders ever since that fateful day.

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