United 93 recreates the doomed trip in actual time, from takeoff to hijacking to the realization by those onboard that their plane was part of a coordinated attack unfolding on the ground beneath them. The film attempts to understand the abject fear and courageous decisions of those who-over the course of just 90 minutes-transformed from a random assembly of disconnected strangers into bonded allies who confronted an unthinkable situation.
director and shaky camera superfan Paul Greengrass tackles the biggest hot button issue in America by making an action movie out of it. United 93
re-enacts the events aboard the fourth hi-jacked September 11th jet as its passengers attempted to retake the plane from terrorist hijackers. They weren’t able to save themselves, but they were able to save others. United Airlines Flight 93 nose dived into an empty field, instead of into the Whitehouse or the Pentagon.
Even years later, the wounds of September 11th remain raw. Osama Bin Laden is still free, the United States is still mired in Afghanistan, and though there hasn’t been another attack it’s hard to claim that we’re any safer now than we were then, though we’ve been slowly giving up freedoms under the pretense that doing so will
make us safer. Whether that’s a good idea or not, you’ll have to decide for yourselves. This is a movie preview, not a political thesis.
But it’s hard to talk about United 93
without at least thinking about current world politics. Greengrass promises to avoid politics and focus on the smaller story of his movie, on the heroic actions of a few people on the worst day of their lives, rising to the occasion. Yet much of the story of Flight 93 remains speculation. All Greengrass can really offer us is his opinion of what happened on that day, based on whatever facts are available. Will his opinion of what happened replace realities of that day? Almost certainly. When people think World War II, these days they think of Saving Private Ryan
, not something written in a stale history book.
Normally, I’m the first to stand up and say who cares about historical accuracy, just give me a good movie. But this wound is still so fresh; it’s so new, that accuracy in Greengrass’ depiction is key. It’s easy to make a movie about WWII or the Holocaust or Pearl Harbor 50 years after the fact. Time heals all wounds. This wound hasn’t yet healed, and Greengrass is diving headfirst into a minefield by making a movie about what for most of us is the most traumatic event in the United States of America’s recent history.
Greengrass may be trying to pay tribute to the brave sacrifice of these heroes; he may simply be trying to help us remember. But it’s so soon, that no one has forgotten. We don’t need a reminder. Maybe the movie will be great, maybe it’ll be tasteful, maybe it’ll be a fitting tribute. Great. But does anyone want to see it? With the events set in motion by that day still unresolved, America may not be ready to relive any part of 9/11. Call me a coward, but I know I’m not.