Saturday, April 29, 2006

I Saw United 93

I can't say I was personally affected by the events of 9/11. Thankfully, I knew no one who was on any of the four planes, and even though I am originally from New York and know many people who live there, no one I know died in the attack on the World Trade Center. That said, I was really personally affected by the new movie United 93. And really, it's hard not to be. This is top-notch filmmaking, the kind of you-are-there movie that puts you on the plane, in the air traffic control centers, on the seat of your pants, and makes you feel like you were a part of the events of that day. It all feels authentic, and it takes place in real time in almost documentary fashion, so you feel the dread when simple things happen, like the closing of the plane doors. And there's probably no moment as uneasy as when the plane actually takes off.

This is a movie that seeks to document what was happening on the plane that tragic morning, and without a lot of moralistic or political intervention. As such, the hijackers are not portrayed simply as evil men; they are also scared about what is taking place (but not to the degree that they'd earn sympathy from a viewer). Many of the passengers are never really fleshed out, and it's hard to identify some of the people whose names are more recognizable, like Todd Beamer. These people are just there — like we are — scared and doing the best they can to be strong. When they start picking up the phone to call their loved ones, it made me want to do the same. And when the plane goes down and the screen goes black, it's a terrible moment that feels all-too-real.

There's been all this talk recently about it being too soon for a movie about 9/11. If this one was exploitive or sensationalistic or of a lesser quality, I might agree. But quite frankly, I don't know if there will ever be a good time for 9/11 movies. (I'm sure there are World War II vets who lived through D-Day and object to movies like Saving Private Ryan.) And because United 93 is such a well-made movie, it is that much more intense, emotional, and hard to watch. It's definitely a must-see. I give it an A.

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