Wednesday, May 03, 2006

@ the movies: United 93

Saw United 93.

I'd say the theatre was 75% full.

The film is supported by many of the family members of the flight. Some of the air traffic control personnel played themselves in the film. Because of these facts and the straightforward recreation of those fateful few hours, I'm recommending this film.

Certainly for sensitive individuals, caution is strongly advised. As for children seeing the film, parents need to exercise judgment based on what they know about their child. My advisory would be 13 and up. I suspect this film could be a starting point for some serious conversations between fathers and sons about the meaning of courage: it isn't fearlessness but the willingness to do what is right despite fear.

Will people go see the film in large numbers?

It isn't the kind of movie you will likely see more than once and some people will not see it just like some people refused to see Saving Private Ryan or Blackhawk Down because of the violence and understandably so.

United 93 drew an R rating but in my opinion, some PG-13 movies I've seen contained more violence. Certainly, the level and explicitness of on screen violence in Saving Private Ryan and Blackhawk Down far exceeds United 93.

The film is shot from a "fly on the wall" perspective. You see the hijackers in their hotel rooms getting ready to go to Newark Airport. You see the crew of United 93 getting the plane ready. You see the various air traffic control center operators planning ahead and responding to what appeared to be a typical day of a few thousand planes flowing in different directions in the clear skies of Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

The film unfolds in near real-time.

There is no attempt to develop a personal narrative.

As I watched, I felt like I did in Blackhawk Down, where the soldiers have names and faces but the film provided no back story. It was easy to confuse the characters. Those who read the book Blackhawk Down know the back stories of the soldiers. We know the back stories of the passengers of United 93 because of the various newspaper stories and television features about that fateful day.

However, in United 93, the people are essentially anonymous. I suspect the film makers intent is to make them as ordinary and you and me. Indeed, they were 33 specific passengers and 7 specific United Airlines employees. Each was an individual with a story and family and friends left behind in sorrow. However, in the anonymity of the film they would be like the passengers and crew we sit with when we fly in an airplane. I'd also like to believe that any other combination of 40 people would have done the same thing given those circumstances.

It was those circumstances that reminded me of Saving Private Ryan. In the harrowing opening landing sequence of Saving Private Ryan, the soldiers are traumatized coming off the landing crafts hitting the beach. The carnage and shock left them breathless and confused. Yet, amidst the chaos, they rallied and looked around them and gathered what equipment they had and used teamwork to get off the beach and took the fight to the enemy.

The passengers of United 93 did the same thing. We see the phone calls and the information flow from the ground to the passengers and from passengers to each other. They shook off the shock and took the fight to the 4 hijackers foiling their destructive plans.

Their story needs to be told and re-told so we will never forget.

Flight 93 Memorial Project


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