United 93 Reviews
"United they stood."
United 93 tells the story of the one plane that doesn't reach the terrorists planned destination. It tells in extraordinary detail the events of the day from the ground and from the United 93 airplane. This movie is a sobering and terrifying film that looks real and makes you almost feel like you are in the plane too.
This story isn't an easy one to tell. Any minor detail could seem like exploitation if used in the wrong way, but this was done in such a fashion where you can tell Greengrass wasn't just using the events of that day, but telling a story about real life heroes. When the terrorists took the plane over, the passengers gathered near the back of the plane and came up with a plan to try to retake the plane. They knew the pilots didn't have control of the plane and they also knew that planes had been hitting the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. So they acted in such a way that saved the lives of who knows how many people.
This isn't the easiest movie to get through. A lot of it is watched in a quiet trance, as you wish the story could end differently, but you know it won't. The starless cast makes this movie feel like real life. We aren't watching Russel Crowe or Brad Pitt in the plane trying to retake it. We are watching strangers and it goes a long way in making the film feel much more real.
United 93 mauy end up going down as the best movie ever made on 9/11. There's going to be many more made I'm sure, but this one just grabs the viewer and makes them relive the dread of that day through the people that had to endure that, and I'm not sure if another film about that day will ever be able to accomplish that as well as United 93.
Told in real time and utilizing a combination of cinema verite, subtle special effects, news footage, and unparalled amounts of detailed research, this is a history based docudrama about the events of September 11, 2001, specifically the events surrounding the hijaking of United Airlines Flight 93- the only airplane that did not make it to the planned attack location.
The film follows not only the passengers, crew, and terrorists on the plane, but also the various groups of people on the ground at air traffic control stations, and various other related facilities. The film is structred and executed in an intimate documentary style with the audience feeling as if they are right in the middle of the action. The recreation of events is feverishly faithful and respectful, though some liberties of specifically how some events took place (mostly the ones on the plane) had to be left to the imagination. Even then, the film is a gripping and unrelenting look at the choas and confusion that took place that day, as well as the strength and heroism of the plane pasengers who uinted as a group to foil the hijackers and save even more lives from being taken, even at the cost of their own.
This can be a very hard film to watch at times, and it was purposely desigend to elicit a reaction or emotion out of the audience. There is no correct way to react to this film. It is just a recreation of the events and just shows them in a very realistic and unsettling manner. Some valid nit picks I do have though are that, given the film being an exercise in emmersing the audience in emotional distress and hooror, it is legitimate to question this film's existence given that no real catharsis is given. I will say that the fact that the film doesn't ty to give answers or commentary, isn't propaganda, and is very much apolitical makes it a stronger and much more of an experience than a piece of entertainment. It is an important film, even if it is a dramatization, because even speculation can be useful as a historical document.
The direction is extremely sharp and focused, the performances are very nuanced and tasteful, and the music is veery emotional and swelling. What is absolutely brilliant with this film though are the cinematography and tight, handheld camera work, and the impressive editing. Three editors were employed to cut and compile all of the footage together, trying to makle sure it stayed as true to reality as possible, which is made even more difficult given how the film jumps from location to location quite frequently in order to show all the events happening at the various places in real time in sequential order. It's a real shame those editors and the film itself was not acknowledged at the Oscars, because there is some truly superior work on display.
As I mentioned above, there is no correct way to react to this movie, but it is impossible to not have a reaction of some sort. You'd really have to have some serious issues to experience this and not feel something. Though this film is a very harrowing and stirring piece of work, it would be just as strong and powerful if it were entirely fictional and had no connection to real events whatsoever. That is how excellent it is.
Here is a film that was so emotional. Even the opening credits were emotional. We see one of the men aboard Flight 93 and discover that he was a family man. My heart literally stopped beating at this very scene. "United 93" is an film that everyone knows how it ends. If you say, "I didn't like this movie because it was so predictable!", go jump off a cliff! The film is character-driven and we get a glimpse of almost everyone on the plane's backgrounds.
The entire film was intense. The credits even leave you speechless. The dialogue was intense, the shooting technique was intense, "United 93" is an intense film, period. The film features a talented no-name cast that we become very attatched to. We weep with them, we yell with them, we're with them the entire way. The film was edited and shot excellently and may just be one of the most powerful films you will ever see!
Before we all go nuts on Friday to see "Thor", I suggest we take some time to remember those who were lost in this event by giving "United 93" a watch. You really should.
"Sit and I will go you the sign."
United 93 takes us back to that day, but it's a very tight view of the attacks. Of course you see the last few hours of the passengers of United flight 93 as they board, take off, and all hell breaks loose. The film also shows what was happening on the ground as planes began to change course and disappear right before their eyes. Yes, the film shows you the towers, but it's in the context that these people saw it- out of an observation tower our on a video feed. It's a tightly knit film that could have easily become a grandiose effort, ala Irvin Allen.
The cast of mostly unknowns and people who were actually in those positions on 9/11 leave you in the movie in a way that having a big name star would pull you right out. These are strangers. They're strangers to each other. The passengers aren't played as ultimate heroes, they're played as people in a panic that just feel that they have to do something. There's no heroic speech, just a discussion of what to do and how to do it.
It's not very common for a docudrama to take you back to the event it's depicting. Usually they fall flat on their face and end up filling in the gaps with mindless fluff that weakens the story. United 93 fills the gaps, but doesn't give you any fluff to chew on. It's fascinating to watch as the system fails and these passengers come to grips with what's unfolding around them. A great rendition of a tragic day.