Sunday, September 11, 2011

United 93 (2006)

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001, so I thought it would be appropriate if I marked the moment by reviewing a film that chronicles the events and to this day remains one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. I saw the movie a while ago and so I tried to watch it again to refresh my memory. Unfortunately, because of technological and timing issues, I was only able to watch the very beginning of it. So if some parts of this review appear to be little uneven or if I say something that does not quite match up with what actually happened, I apologize ahead of time. Like the producers of this film probably knew, not everything you try to create can be perfect, so you just have to go with what you have hope that it turns out for the best. So without further ado, here is "United 93":

Directer: Paul Greengrass
(I have decided to keep the cast anonymous to preserve the feel of the film)

The film focuses on the flight of United 93, which was hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, but was briefly retaken before crashing into a field in Pennsylvania.

I do not really need to go any further with the summery since we all know what happened on that day. The reason why this film is still worth watching, however, is because its point of view of the tragedy is subtle and yet intense at the same time. It does not glamorize anything and it does not feel contrived at all. In other words, it does not feel like a typical Hollywood production.

Humanity is a big theme in the film. When it first starts, it shows the soon-to-be hijackers praying and preparing for their last day on Earth. It soon becomes apparent that, while their is no sign that they will abort the mission, they are clearly very nervous. You have to give credit for being able to make the terrorists look like flesh and blood human beings and yet not overdoing it to make them sympathetic. We are then shown others who are going to board and they are shown to be, well, human as well. Just normal everyday people going about their daily lives, not knowing that they are about to be written into the history books. Sadly, they will not be there to seen it.

The technical aspects of the film are also well done. It is shot semi-documentary-style, which only adds to the down-to-earth feeling it emulates. The music is also present, but not overwhelming. Most importantly, it mainly focuses on the passengers themselves, with only occasional breaks that shows us the FAA as it tries to deal with the chaos that develops. We see passengers as they too attempt to understand what is going on, discover what is happening in New York and Washington, and ultimately what they must do to put a stop to the men who are set to destroy the Capital Building.

As I mentioned in the introduction, it would have nearly impossible to get everything right, though they do a really good job. It should be noted, for instance, that Ben Sliney, who was the FAA National Operations Manager on September 11th (his first day on the job, if you can imagine that), plays himself in the film. The only big thing that seems to stick out is that apparently there is a man depicted in the film by the name of Christian Adams who is seen as an appeaser even though in real life he was nothing like that. Again, it has been a while since I have seen the movie, so I cannot personal vouch for either side. Needless to say, if you make a film about September 11th, it is bound to get some criticism no matter what, fairly or unfairly. My personal opinion, however, is that this film, whatever its flaws, is a great piece of work because it manages to capture the mood and the raw emotions that were felt on that day: the shock, the panic, the confusion, the grief, even the (bittersweet) triumph. The ending, which occurs right as the plane and the people on board meet their final fate and we all see coming, is nonetheless very gripping and powerful, though there are no real words to truly describe it.

This film is excellent. Whatever films are made about the attacks in the future, this certainly sets the bar very high. If you feel very strongly about the 9/11 attacks and do not have the will to see it, I certainly do not blame you. But if you are willing, I definitely recommend it.

For the last time, I am sorry I could not give a more elaborate review of the film; it was just beyond my control. However, I still wanted to do something to commemorate the anniversary (even if it is a little late), because I was a child in September of 2001, and like so many other people of my generation, it was a turning point in how I viewed the world and life in general. For better or for worse, the events changed everything and while nothing can really explain all that transpired from that day, this movie at least helps put things in perspective and shows that, despite the tragedy, that we can always hope foe a better tomorrow. Yes, I know this all sounds a bit corny, especially after that "Captain America" bit I did recently, but it is the truth. And in the end, that is really the best I can really offer.

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