R for some intense sequences of terror and violence
April 28, 2006
Opal Alladin, Erich Redman, Ben Sliney, Susan Blommaert, Peter Hermann
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By Elliott Ryan
Some people feel that it is too soon after 9/11 to release a movie like United 93. I side with those who wish it had been released sooner.
This heroic story is one that needs to be memorialized. In our society today, like it or not, one of the main ways of memorializing something is through film. This film will act as a reminder to all who view it about the importance of our nation’s war on terror – regardless of how those viewers feel about how that war is being handled.
By now, most everyone has heard the story of what happened on that fateful day on United flight 93. It was one of four planes hijacked by Muslim terrorists who were intending to crash all four planes into targeted U.S. landmarks. Flight 93 was the only one on which the terrorists were unsuccessful. The passengers on the flight found out what the terrorists were planning to do and decided to act. They prevented the terrorists from crashing the plane into their target (believed to be either the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.). Unfortunately, as the passengers fought off the terrorists, the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Everyone on board perished.
The fear among many is the Hollywood movies about 9/11 would be exploitative. While there will no doubt be many more films related to 9/11 in the future, that fear is unfounded in this film. This film doesn’t exploit the victims of this tragedy or their families. In fact, the family members of many of the passengers who perished on that flight supported this film. The focus of this documentary-like film is the actions and reactions of people on the plane and people in the various government agencies on the ground trying to deal with the tragedy. We don’t learn much of anything about the passengers or the terrorists. The story focuses so little on any particular characters that we don’t even really learn the names of people on the plane. Instead we only see what happened on that plane in real time (or something close to it).
In his attempt to make the film as real as possible, director Paul Greengrass used largely unknown actors. There are a few faces you might recognize but no big name Hollywood stars were cast. In fact, some of the personnel on the ground that were a part of the events of 9/11 were cast to play themselves in this film. For example, Ben Sliney was Chief of Air Traffic Control at the Federal Aviation Administration’s headquarters in Herndon, Virginia on September 11, 2001. He originally was hired by filmmakers as a consultant, but he ended up playing himself in the movie.
Throughout the film, a sense of horror builds as the passengers realize what needs to be done. It is that feeling of horror that is keeping many people from seeing this film. I can understand that sentiment. I was not looking forward to this movie experience. It portrays horrendous acts that we have only seen in our minds as we heard all about these events over the last five years. It leaves viewers with many questions. What could have been done to save those people? What can be done to make sure this never happens again? What would I have done if I was one of those passengers on that flight?
But in spite of the horror of it all, I walked away with the feeling that this was an important movie that everyone should see. It is rare that I have that feeling at the theater. This story of heroism may help us heal the wounds we felt as a nation since that horrible day. It serves as a reminder that in a world of darkness and evil, we are all given the choice by God to do something good.
Of course, this is not a family movie. There are bloody stabbings, frightening acts of terrorism, and several instances of adult language. All of these are no doubt realistic to what happened on 9/11. But leave the children at home.
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