Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Christian Clemenson United 93 Directed by Paul Greengrass
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



This could be the toughest review I’ve ever written. Being a born-and-bred American, I have a few protective sensibilities regarding my home country. When 9/11 happened, I was just as stunned, fearful, and outraged as most of my fellow countrymen, I’m sure. And watching a film related to those events only a few short years after that dreadful day, I could feel those same emotions smoldering within me. Trying to objectively rate this film based solely on its merits becomes a bit sticky, simply because that emotional scar is still so fresh. But I’ll do my best.

The greatest thing about UNITED 93 is that it’s filmed using hand-held cameras, giving the viewer an intimate sense that they are an active party within the movie. This is most effective when we’re on the plane (for reasons stated earlier) and get to witness all of the passengers’ interactions with each other and the hijackers. The other excellent part is that there isn’t one star that we follow, nor are there any big name actors/actresses in the film. Every person is just as important as the next. I applaud director Greengrass’ script interpretation and this seldom used method of filming.

Another admirable item is that the film shows us how off-guard the FAA and the military was immediately following the hijackings. As the movie moves between the FAA headquarters and the military’s interactions with these public offices, we get to witness the incredible chaos that ensued and feel the frustrations as they try to figure out which planes are risks, what to do about them, who has the authority to shoot them down (if need be), and the unavailability of President Bush.

The big issues with the movie will obviously be very personal. Each individual will probably feel differently about it. Mine were of manipulation. Since this is still a fresh memory in the minds of most Americans (including my own), I felt as though the film makers were trying to feed off of those memories. This isn’t as horrible as it sounds, though. Some of the best films play with our feelings. The risk here, however, is what we do with them. Do we continue to fear? Or hate? Or do we learn from these experiences and move ahead? This film won’t give you the answers to those questions, which is both a strength and one hell of a flaw. But it is a well put together piece of cinema.

Click here for the United 93 movie trailer!


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