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United 93
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by Jason Whyte

"One of the most important films ever made."
5 stars

“United 93” left me shaken and with tears flowing down my face, both in reaction to a honest and realistic portrayal of personal heroism and sacrifice, but also out of respect for director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy” and the excellent “Bloody Sunday”), who has taken on the topic of the doomed United flight 93 on September 11th, 2001, without fear or compromise, and has created a memorable if heartbreaking motion picture. Here is one of the best films of the year.

Greengrass and his filmmakers have told the story, in such a way that is a true re-enactment of the type, of what happened when a flight from Newark to San Francisco was overrun by a Muslim terrorist group that had smuggled a bomb on board. The group was just part of a multiple-plane takeover that was to hit major political and financial headquarters of the United States. The film does not say who or make any comment about why (there is a brief scene at the beginning with the responsible people reading to the Koran before boarding the plane), rather simply showing things as they happen, when they happen.

The viewpoint shifts flawlessly by way of flight 93, air traffic controllers at JFK/LaGuardia, Boston, Cleveland and the FAA national centre as all aspects of flight controllers, pilots and crew discover the situation in real time. There is no “character development” in the film, nor should there be (you see a few characters making idle chatter on Flight 93 as they eat their breakfast, but that’s about it); we pick up their characteristics as the film moves along, rather than have a useless half an hour of exposition.

The scenes of the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre are handled with delicate precision. Instead of seeing the horror of the impact of those planes, we see the reaction of air traffic controllers, military personnel, and other pilots. When the first plane hits, we do not see it; of course we shouldn’t, because nobody else did. The reaction is one of shock, of course, but these people have to keep working hard to keep other planes in the air. It is a great moment in the film when FAA-head Ben Sliney (who plays himself in the film) commands that all US air traffic, including international air coming within American air space, stop immediately. “We are at war with someone,” he says, and it should also be noted that this is his first day on the job.

What is also staggering about the film is how it does not preach any particular point about the politics surrounding 9/11. As I mentioned before, the film is merely show and tell as it happens, and it is up to us to process the information. Greengrass focuses on a pure documentary style, utilizing his trademark handheld cameras to put us right there in the moment, and to get the reactions and genuine emotion of everyone at that particular moment in time. It worked for Greengrass when the Irish fought the British power in “Bloody Sunday”, and it worked for Jason Bourne as he battled and chased around Europe in “The Bourne Supremacy”, and it especially works for the passengers of flight 93, who are all huddled into the back of the plane as a terrorist plot takes life in the cockpit.

It is also important to notice that not only do we not stray from either the plane or the control centres, we don’t even see from outside them. There are no typical establishing shots of NORAD, nor do we see exterior plane shots at any time. By doing this, Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd keep us right along with the characters and the human aspect of the story. We see what they see.

“United 93” is not an “entertaining” motion picture; more to the point, it is not a film you will go to see to have a good time. Skip the concession stand. It may not do well in the box office, and I don’t think Greengrass cares either, as it is a film that is important to our generation and future ones. The final twenty minutes, involving the eventual takeover of the plane by its passengers is some of the most emotionally devastating filmmaking I have ever seen, and this along with the entire film has left me shaken. Yet it is something that you need to see, as those people on board Flight 93, who had just learned what had just happened at the WTC, somehow decide ever so quickly to stand up and fight. If that isn’t pure heroism, I don’t know what is.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14494&reviewer=350
originally posted: 05/01/06 00:02:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/20/17 morris campbell a awesome but harrowing movie 5 stars
6/21/14 The king Greengrass is the master 5 stars
12/10/09 Screw all Conspirators Very good movie that captured the harrowing final moments of United 93. God Bless them all. 5 stars
6/07/07 Danielle Ophelia The most authentic, least manipulative film you'll ever see. 5 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Too much too soon. American citizens should Fuck this mockery of a tragic day. 1 stars
2/24/07 Danny Worth watching, but I actually thought the TV movie "Flight 93" was more gut-wrenching. 4 stars
2/06/07 Matt A tragic tale beautifully and respectfully told. May they all R.I.P. 5 stars
12/14/06 The Deadly Assassin Well crafted thriller. 5 stars
12/03/06 BrianDePalma ok movie 3 stars
9/19/06 albert awesome! 5 stars
9/09/06 Jan great film! 5 stars
9/06/06 RS Triumph of the Will 2006 Total Propaganda Hated it. 1 stars
9/05/06 action movie fan powerful documentary style thriller telling of 9/11 events--gripping and intense 5 stars
9/01/06 ES Goes against the evidence 1 stars
8/25/06 Alex Thorne mabye ten years down the line it would be decent, but this just seems exploitive. 2 stars
8/17/06 Nix thrilling 5 stars
8/17/06 Pn. Hate to sjoot YOU down, Heather, but it's time to turn off the cartoons and pay attention. 5 stars
8/05/06 Heather In real life, this plane was SHOT DOWN, get real!! 1 stars
7/25/06 Frenzy very good 5 stars
7/05/06 Jonathon Holmes one of-if not-the best film of 2006 5 stars
6/19/06 Becky The most I've ever cried in theatres. Heart-wrenching. 5 stars
6/04/06 MP Bartley Very powerful and distressing. Hard to forget. 5 stars
6/01/06 San Lamar not my kind of movie 2 stars
5/31/06 Chris Malone A Stunning unremitting statement 5 stars
5/19/06 Christine Wilbik Very moving and interesting movie 4 stars
5/13/06 Desperado What an incredible movie, I had chills all the way though it and I left stunned 5 stars
5/12/06 Eric Mc Extremely Powerful, moving, emotional and REAL 5 stars
5/09/06 Doubter pure fiction 1 stars
5/09/06 rachelle realistic with empathy for the victim's families. eveyone needs to see this movie 5 stars
5/07/06 Paul A good piece of fiction, in reality the plane was SHOT DOWN 3 stars
5/06/06 Mase Hard to watch, challenging cinema. If you let it, it will punch you in the emotional gut. 4 stars
5/06/06 Mason Tragic story + skakey hand cam + hokey dialogue = worth seein' 4 stars
5/06/06 Unimpressed if you believe this...I have ocean front property for sale in Phoenix 1 stars
5/06/06 Air Biscuit It's changed how I look at violence. Violence for entertainment feels sick now. 5 stars
5/01/06 Daniel Flawless film. And your review is spot-on. 5 stars
5/01/06 Deadite Great film. 5 stars
4/30/06 mr.mike bullseye 5 stars
4/29/06 Cheshire Gothic Succubus what can i possibly say? one of the greatest films ever made 5 stars
4/29/06 Mark very fine film 5 stars
4/29/06 Anne Great movie, loved the format. 5 stars
4/28/06 your worst goddamn nightmare Incredible film. Made me scared, angry, stressed, sad, tearful... 5 stars
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  28-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 05-Sep-2006



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