Sunday, September 24, 2006

United 93

Since Spring '06, back when this movie was first released in theaters, United 93 has generated a lot of buzz. Not so much for it's plot, storyline or acting. And although there was some discussion (mostly kudos) regarding how writer-director Paul Greengrass presented the true-life drama, most of the buzz wasn't about that, either.

Nope. Most of talk about United 93 centered upon whether or not the movie was made and released too soon after the tragedy.

Ian Casselberry, who writes Fried Rice Thoughts had a definite opinion of the film when he saw it back in May. For a terrific and thoughtful review, check out his comments. After my viewing, I agree with him fully. And, I couldn't improve upon his written comments.

Greengrass presents the film in an almost documentary style. And the movie feels almost like it is occurring in real time (although I haven't read anything that tells me it was filmed that way). United 93 is most powerful, to me at least, in pointing out the absurdities of the tragedy: bureaucracy prevented the military from being able to react until several minutes after the plane had already crashed; the President and his most powerful Cabinet members could not be reached timely; on any given day there are so many air-flights that a couple planes here and there are almost as difficult to monitor as proverbial needles in haystacks; and without cell phones, it is very likely that the hijacked United 93 would have reached it's target, the White House.

Cell phones were secretly used by the passengers to call their loved ones during the hijacking. It was during these calls the passengers discovered that, earlier in the day, other planes had been used for suicide missions. Without that information, it is more than likely the passengers of United 93 would have waited the situation out to see how it ended.

The movie neither exploits or underplays the tragedy. It is what it is, and Greegrass and his cast show it honestly.


Hoyt said...

From everything I've read, including your review and Ian's, I now have no doubt that United 93 is a good film. I'm still not ready to see this movie, but you both have me reconsidering my strong feelings against seeing this film.

Jackie Lantern said...

This showed up in the mailbox Sept 9th and the wife and I watched it Sept 10th. Who am I to question the Netflix gods?

Wow, I haven't been that emotional during a movie since, well maybe never. I was angry, then sad, then furious, then just I don't know what. The last five minutes were absolutely excruciating.

But your review is right on. Myself, I'm glad I watched it but I will never watch it again.

jedi jawa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jedi jawa said...

I'm going to do a shameless cut 'n paste of my comment from when you first blogged about this film. Now improved with links!

I saw it last week [when it came out] and thought it was well done. I went to see it after hearing a review of the film on NPR's "Weekend America" - [listen here]. Mostly, I went to see it because I think that the 40+ people who died on United 93 tend to get lost in the solemnization of the 9/11 attacks. Everybody always refers to New York and D.C., but those guys who died in a field in PA tend to get less attention because so little is known about them.

My view of the film is that it doesn't make social commentary during the film; it doesn't try to feature any person as particularly brave or evil but just as people reacting in that moment; and it gets a powerful message across without having to force the viewer to have any one particular emotion.

The NPR reviewer had a powerful experience as he saw the premier with the families of the victims. His account gave me goose bumps. I saw it in a mostly empty theater and the film did turn out to be a numbing experience. However, I felt like those of us in the theater had a shared experience as many of us were crying by the end of it. It was not as much a negative experience as it was an inspring one. I would recommend it as there is nothing like seeing something like that in a darkened theater as a shared experience. I don't think it would have the same impact on the small screen playing in a well-lit living room.

Anonymous said...

I almost threw up when I watched this movie. My heart was pounding through my chest. I appreciated this film, although I don't think I could make myself watch it again.

Anathema Device said...

I'm on the fence with this (and also World Trade Center.) I want to see it, but I don't think I'm ready for it, yet.

Ian C. said...

Thanks for the plug and links, TFG. I'm extremely interested to read more comments on the film from you and others, now that it's out on DVD, and a bit more time has passed.

As Jackie and off route said, I'm not sure I could watch it again, but I think it was exactly the movie that needed to be made, letting what happened speak for itself.

Compare that to World Trade Center, which I thought was an inferior film, but certainly a stirring tribute to the heroism that took place. In many ways, however, it does many of the things that I praised United 93 for not doing.

The Film Geek said...

wtfrtqIan: I've been thinking about this movie a lot since I saw it. I think I found most compelling the heroism that was forced upon--and accepted by--the passengers. Faced with the inevitable, they still fought. If you read most of my comments, you know I am often conflicted (or haunted, may be the best phrase) but doubts about my motives, or what I might do in an emergency situation. I only hope I could be as brave and as selfless as those passengers on United 93 were.

The Film Geek said...

By the way, for the typo and sausage fingered impaired, "wtfrtqIan:" stands for "Ian."

Jeez...I have no idea how that happened.