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May 08, 2006

United 93 - forget the popcorn

United 93Husband Eric and I enjoy seeing movies on a Sunday morning because there are rarely lines or crowds (and considering the quality of most of Hollywood's offerings over the past year, even finding good parking hasn't been a problem). As is our habit, a quick stop to get a soda and a popcorn to share then settle into comfy chairs and watch the trailers. The lights then come fully down, the blurb from the management to turn off cellphones and the main feature starts ...

... and about ten minutes in we push the popcorn aside, unwanted, to be forgotten for the rest of the movie.

Paul Greengrass' deceptively simple presentation of the events of 9/11/01 as they unfolded, with focus on the crew and passengers of United 93, packs the punch that a slick, stylized ... heck, Hollywoodized ... movie would lack. Greengrass' background in documentary films gives him the amazing skill of creating a film that draws you immediately into the events without giving you the escape valve of being able to sit back at uncomfortable moments and think "eh, this is just a movie after all."

There are no big name stars, no background exposition on anyone you meet in this film. It's as if you are a damned specter, condemned to wander and witness events you know about but cannot change. Boarding 93 was an ordinary as any other boarding on any other of tens of thousands of flights that day. Snippets of conversation among passengers as you float up the aisle -- a couple making dinner plans, old friends pouring over a map of Yosemite, the flight attendants checking their stores and asking after each others families -- nothing that hasn't happened, that doesn't happen, any other day on any other flight.

And when the door is sealed a sense of forboding settles over your heart with the heat and heaviness of molten lead.

The film is relentless in its unblinking look at the day. From the impatience of air traffic controllers, who at first think they are just dealing with technical difficulties, to the initial incredulity expressed by the FAA staff and military officers that a hijacking, something that hadn't happened in the US for thirty-odd years, was really taking place.

There have been some grumbles that the Islamist hijackers weren't "villainized" enough, or their "reasons" weren't explained. Some even found some equivalency with the intercut scenes of the Islamists praying and the recitations of the Lord's prayer by passengers who knew they were going to die. However, I again find such a straight-forward portrayal of these predators as unflinchingly non-politically correct. There is no downplaying of their religious fanaticism and the cold-blooded evil that comes with Islamism. The meaning of the Commandment Thou shall not take the name of God in vain is about doing evil acts in the name of God and bringing the name of God into disrepute. There is no greater evil than religious evil and the contrast between the hijackers and the passengers could not be more stark. Greengrass doesn't have to preach or explain, just show.

I've never been to a movie where the audience was so silent at the conclusion. We all moved to the exits, wiping away tears, walking softly and slowly as at a funeral, in respect for the lives of the people who found themselves moved to act in the face of the unbelievable.

Everyone should see this movie. It should be shown in high schools across the nation. It is the most important film of the last several years.

Please see it.

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trackbacked to:
Tammy who has her own United 93 review
Jannette who is retesting the blogging pool with a perfectly pedicured toe
and Pirate's Cove

Posted by Darleen at May 8, 2006 07:26 AM


I agree...definitely NOT a popcorn movie!

Thought it was interesting that we both noted the emotional impact of the cabin door being sealed and the effectiveness of Greengrass's decision to not cast major stars.

Separately, I didn't realize that several of the cast members were "real" participants in the events of 9/11.

I also agree that as many people as possible--regardless of political persuasion---should experience the film.

Posted by: NYCinephile at May 8, 2006 10:56 AM

I still can't bear to see it but my thanks to you and Eric for being brave enough to go in my stead.

Posted by: Janette at May 8, 2006 09:10 PM

Flight 93's not for me.

If I want to be depressed I'll think of some other way of getting there....

Posted by: Carl W. Goss at May 9, 2006 07:59 AM

Yeh Mr. Goss....I can only imagine just how badly this starkley unrelenting movie puts the loudest of "liers" stamp too the entire panalope of the Lefts anti-American, terrorist loving, screed campaign, and thouroughly pee's in your Socialist cornflakes.... If for no other reason than that one alone I would decree it a must see....

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at May 10, 2006 11:30 AM

For Chrissakes, Big, all I
said was it's too depressing to watch.

What's with all that other stuff?

Posted by: Carl W. Goss at May 11, 2006 07:35 AM