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United 93
DVD disk
09.11.2006 By: Jason Adams
United 93 order
Director:
Paul Greengrass

Actors:
Christian Clemenson
Trish Gates
Polly Adams

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In case you have retrograde amnesia like Leonard Shelby, on the morning of September 11, 2001, four commercial airliners were hijacked, two striking the World Trade Centers and one hitting the Pentagon. The other plane was United Flight 93, on route to San Francisco from Newark Airport. After hearing about the fate of the other hijacked planes, the forty passengers onboard decided that they needed to do something, anything, to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plan.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
I really wanted to hate UNITED 93. I was firmly in the camp that saw no point in commercially dramatizing 9/11. (TOO SOON! Oh, wait, this isnít AICNÖ) The only reason I was mildly curious was Paul Greengrass. The man showed with BLOODY SUNDAY that he could respectfully make a moving and thought-provoking film about a definitive national tragedy, and unsurprisingly UNITED 93 is successful in that regard.

Thankfully Greengrass takes a very minimalist approach to everything. Thereís never any forced melodrama, no sweeping score to wrench easy tears from the audience. Even the passengerís heartbreaking goodbyes to their loved ones arenít overdone. Everything is presented simply and straightforward, and with the handheld camerawork, itís almost like a documentary. Another smart move was using entirely unknown actors/real people, which keeps the audience from any outside associations. (It's not ďBen Affleck is the only man who can stop 9/11!Ē) I also have to admit that the one positive thing about UNITED 93 being ďTOO SOON!!!Ē is that it is still fresh in everyoneís mind. From the first shot of New York City on, all you can think about, all you think about during every beat of the movie, is the inevitable. Not only does this soak everything in a conscious tension, but because it's so recently etched in our minds, watching peopleís reactions as the second plane hits the tower, for example, uses our own personal recollections to great effect. And by the final fifteen minutes the film has grown to an almost-overpowering emotional experience.

As moving as it is, the one feeling I couldnít shake the entire time was the fact that nobody knows what exactly happened on that plane. Greengrass worked alongside the victimsí families and from actual reports and recordings, but a good part of the film is undeniably still pure conjecture. The other thing that drags the movie is the amount of time spent focused on the ground. I know itís supposed to be a real-time account, but itís an hour in before we get to the actual flight and with all the suspense it becomes almost impatient waiting. The first section does serve as a good reminder of how chaotic and completely unexpected the attacks were, both strategically and emotionally, but it still gets repetitive hearing the same thing three times from the different airports and military bases.

Overall, UNITED 93 is a very good movie, but it still begs the question whether or not it is a necessary one. What exactly does dramatizing this event accomplish? It's a glowing tribute to the heroes onboard, no doubt, but how does experiencing this all over again bring about anything new, either for us as a nation or in the individual viewer? If anything, it shows that unfortunately not much has changed since that day five years ago.
THE EXTRAS
The commentary/documentary extras are pretty standard, but both of the ones included on this disc are excellent. (Thereís also a two-disc special edition out there if you can find it.)

Commentary by director Paul Greengrass: Thereís a lot to talk about with UNITED 93 and Greengrass pretty much covers it all. From the myriad of choices they faced in approaching the movie and being guided by the families to the difficult editing process (the film almost opened in Afghanistan with Osama Bin Laden), Greengrass comes across as an intelligent and well-spoken man who doesnít talk down to the audience. (Thereís was a lot of simple symbolic things I didnít pick up on, especially with the ending.) Itís an informative and non-biased commentary that should be required listening to accompany a film that has the same qualities.

UNITED 93: The Families and the Film (59:51): A nice documentary that illustrates all the careful preparation that went in to the film, from first getting each familyís approval and thoughts on what they wanted UNITED 93 to be to their input after theyíve seen the finished film a year later. Itís almost hard to watch, especially when it follows the actors as they meet the friends and relatives of their real life characters (Hint: Lots of crying ensues.), but itís a nice way of honoring the victims and at the same time legitimizing the film.

Memorial Pages: A biography and tribute for each of the forty passengers.

A Preview for the Academy Award-winning documentary TWIN TOWERS.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I remember hearing a few months after September 11 that some douchenozzle approached Robert DeNiro in public about starring in a 9/11movie, whereupon DeNiro all but beat the guy Jake LaMotta style. Well, itís less than five years later and the first wave of those movies have already been released. UNITED 93 handles the difficult task quite well, without pulling any emotional punches or trivializing the gravity of the event. Whether or not itís a film you want to watch is up to you.

And regardless of your views on the United States since September 11, 2001, may we never forget what happened that day. UNITED 93 assures us that we wonít.
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