We all remember where we were on the morning of September 11, 2001, but do we really want to see how it happened? In a CNN poll of almost 10,000 people, 53 percent said they have no intention of seeing a film about 9/11. However, this year, we have two. The first of these is director Paul Greengrass’s “United 93,” a depiction of the events that unfolded aboard the passenger flight that was destined for a target in Washington, D.C., but was thwarted by the cunning actions of the passengers. Some have called this film tasteless saying that the material is not appropriate for film and that the timing is too soon. However, while the events of 9/11 are a centerpiece of the film, it is more about heroism in the face of impending danger. The story in “United 93” is one of heroism, and while the film’s trailer has been booed in theaters across the country, it is the first high-quality film of 2006 and deserves to be seen by all. Paul Greengrass did a brilliant job on this film. The cast contains no big name stars and it is not riddled with character development that does not add any depth to the film because the material is deep enough. “United 93” shows how 9/11 was an ordinary day. The passengers go about the usual activities that go along with flying. With that, comes a natural script that seems as though we are watching the events exactly as they happened. As movie-watchers, we must decipher what actually happened and what was added for dramatic purposes because no one is completely sure what exactly happened. The film gives us an educated guess as to what happened aboard the flight, which is really all we can ask for with a film like this one. The writers used dialogue for the black box recordings for the script as well as accounts of the phone conversations made by passengers to their loved ones. Greengrass even got some of the air controllers to play themselves, including Ben Sliney, whose first day as National Operations Manager was 9/11. The fact that people who were there and major players adds a sense of reality and authenticity.
The technical aspects of this are equally phenomenal. Shot very similar to “Bloody Sunday,” Greengrass used handheld cameras that added to the realistic atmosphere. It gives off the image that this film is a documentary, providing a memorial to those brave passengers that saved our nation’s capital from even more devastation. The film was also shot in real time which also adds to the realistic feel.
Is “United 93” tasteless? No; it is a memorial to the brave heroes of the doomed flight. This is a film that should be seen by all and is the first truly great film of 2006. There is no flag-waving memorial and no overly sentimental ending, just what happened. It shows heroism and the lengths people are willing to go when in the face of grave danger. Audiences should not perceive this as a film that stands to rehash the tragic events of September 11, but one of human emotion when faced with a devastating choice. The movie is raw and powerful, just as it should be. Greengrass does not sugarcoat the events. In my eyes, we are more than ready for films about 9/11, but only time will tell.