United 93Thursday 01 Jun 2006
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: David Alan Basche, Christian Clemenson, Khalid Abdalla, Cheyenne Jackson and Ben Sliney.
Duration: 111 minutes
There are times when a film review, no matter how well-intentioned or long thought about, can come across as trite and unable to do justice to its subject. This is one such review and Paul Greengrass' 'United 93' is one such film.
Few directors would have the requisite courage or ability to properly tackle the events of 11 September and, in this case, the story of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, who fought back against the hijackers and died when the aircraft crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. But, as he demonstrated with his film 'Bloody Sunday', Greengrass' gift is the ability to bring the viewer deeper into events that they know about already, giving them different perspectives and, ultimately, a deeper understanding. With 'United 93' he has made the film of the year. But, of course, it's more important than that.
Using a cast of unknowns in docudrama style, Greengrass chronicles the build-up to, journey and destruction of UA93. We see 11 September from the point of view of the air traffic controllers, the military personnel and the passengers and crew onboard. Shot with hand held cameras, there's not a second of screen time wasted and for every one of them your admiration for the innocent people on that Newark to San Francisco flight grows.
No matter how harrowing you think this film will be, it's worse. The tension and heartbreak become unbearable and every snippet of conversation, frightened look or realisation ache in a way that shows how conditioned we've become to news coverage and, in many cases, suffering. The last 10 minutes are so painful it's hard to keep watching. But you do, the reason why best expressed by one of the victim's relatives to The Guardian newspaper after seeing this film: "For one moment it was possible to dream that the ending would be different and that they would all be safe."
While conspiracy theorists may scoff at 'United 93' and others point to artistic licence or question themselves for becoming so engrossed in a commercial release about an atrocity, all such concerns are cancelled out by what shines brightest about this film: it's a tribute that no director could better, no amount of time will diminish and no-one should not bear witness to.