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UNITED 93 an objective film review

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by plankspanker13, May 2, 2006.

  1. I posted this in several Flight Simulator-related boards the other day. The views that follow are strictly my own, and come from the perspective of a musician, artist and world traveller who has a college degree in broadcasting and film studies, and who knows a few things about aircraft cockpits vis a vis his education, experiences and hobbies. I have done my best to keep politics out of what follows.

    Director Paul Greengrass has avoided the use of story and sympathy-building cliches. You don't know who any of the characters are, unless you are already familiar with the tragic stories of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Similarly, the background musical score is minimal, and at no point foretells or overshadows the action. This is a film that could easily play in an Arab capital, as well as proverbial Peoria. Greenglass does use time-honored cinematic techniques to illustrate mounting tension and crisis; quick camera movements, rapid shot cutting, etc. Moments before the hijackers move to commandeer the aircraft, their eyes are all given close-ups; nice touch.

    The hijackers are masterfully portrayed by four British unkowns (relatively speaking, of course), and I would encourage movie audiences to NOT identify the actors with the roles that they inhabited here. They did a professional job, and should be recognized as professionals, not the personifications of misguided fanaticism that they portray. The hijackers are as close as this film comes to actually having "starring roles." It is an important depiction of ther mindset as they walk through the airport terminal, averting their eyes to some risque advertising (a Cosmopolitan cover). The hijackers' dialogue is in Arabic, with a smattering of German and English in places (yes, there are subtitles); nice touch.

    There are many scenes in ATC-center environments, both control towers and regional centers. Some of the characters in these locations are the real-life individuals portraying themselves, re-living that awful day for the sake of verisimilitude, as well as preserving and honoring the memories of those lost. Again, nice touch.

    The cockpit scenes appear to be realistic; the main flight display's artificial horizon is deliberately a focal point of many shots. The flight control commands appear to be properly executed and represented, whether it's the crew doing pushback, or the hijackers overriding the autopilot. Greengrass strove for, and got, true cinema verite. The cockpit scenes also appear to be faithful to a fault to the CVR recordings, based upon my having recently read the transcripts of them. CNN's "Larry King Live" had some of the actors, and loved-ones of the victims as part of his panel on the night this film opened. The broadcast should re-air this Sunday evening, as the show typically reprises the best show from the prior week in the Sunday slot. The families have all given the film a full endorsement as far as how the subect matter was treated, so you know that Greengrass has gotten it right. The use of the story itself to advance the plot is refreshing, thus there is no need for the above-referenced "Hollywoodisms" that might otherwise work better (they worked in "Titanic," but perhaps prevented "Pearl Harbor" from being truly great).

    The final moments of UAL93, about the final half-hour of the film, are portrayed chaotically, as they surely must have been. A final crash and explosion is avoided; the screen simply goes black. No Hollywood gimmickry is needed, and, in my opinion, it would have somewhat dishonored the dead. The passengers of UAL93 showed the world what true martrydom is about, and this film does their story justice with eloquence and grace, while avoiding plattitudes and politics. This is the stuff of Oscar consideration, and I predict a Best Director nomination.

    There are a few small nitpicks. During the escalation of the crisis, AAL11 is mistakenly referred to as a 757 by 2 different characters in 2 different places. I am uncertain as to whether this is an actual representation of a historical mistake or a legitimate film continuity error. An establishing shot of UAL93 climbing out is of an aircraft with winglets and an elongated fuselage in the tailplane; an Airbus. ATC displays that are supposed to depict a near miss of two aircraft at the same altitude actually depict a 3000-foot difference. The flight crew walks through the terminal area featuring the new UAL color scheme, which did not get adopted until 2003. Those not familiar with aviation would find these easy to overlook. Also (and I say this strictly as an American who loves, but more importantly, understands his country, and, even more importantly, how the world sees it), it would have been nice if "God Bless America" were playing during the closing credits, instead of some subdued, but nondescript soundtrack music. Of course, this would only be appropriate for American prints of the film, and is a minor point. Resultantly, I found myself singing the tune during the credits. Upon conclusion, many other audience members came to me and thanked me, including the wife of an Iraq-incursion veteran who is now seeing her son going there to serve. I actually apologized for possibly having offended/disturbed someone, but the retorts came back en masse to the opposite effect. This is indeed a powerful film, and worthy of the "must-see" designation assigned to it by a vast majority of the pundits.

    On 9/11/01, the President of France issued a statement that, "Today, we are all Americans." Black flags flew over Paris. Similarly, when terroism has victimized other nations in the subsequent years, I have been as immediate as possible in my online expressions of support. My online golf tour players all wore black hats during last year's British Open as a sign of respect for the innocent dead. Terrorism has no place anywhere, and it sickens me as an honest Flight Simulator enthusiast to know that a beloved hobby was also a training tool for the hijackers. Sorry, I did promise to keep politics out of this, so I shall end here in typical film critic fashion:

    **** (out of a possible 4)
  2. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    Thanks for the review. I plan on going to see it tomorrow, and I see VERY FEW movies in the theater.

    I have heard reports about the brutal violence. Is it worse than a typical slasher movie, or does it just seem worse because you know it happened? Should a teenager (with adult supervision) who has watched horror movies be able to handle it?
  3. Bad Brains

    Bad Brains Banned

    Jan 7, 2004
    Detroit, michigan
    Paying money to see something made by Hollywood to exploit and make money off of this tradegy confuses me.

    Why would someone have to pay to see this movie?

    This is WAY too soon.
  4. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    The producer actually ran it by each and every family involved and they were unanimously in favor of and appreciative of it. I would not call it exploitive. If it is in any way, I'll post back Thursday with an update.

    I don't think it's way too soon. I think that people need to be reminded more often about the evil in this world. They won't even show images of the smoking WTC on TV anymore. Let's just put our heads in the sand and everything will be OK, right?

    I hope they make a lot of money off of this; 10% of the first three days' take will be donated to the memorial, and I want them to make money so they can make more movies like this.
  5. Don't_Fret

    Don't_Fret Justin Schornstein

    Dec 10, 2003
    I agree on all points.

    Excellent review, though.
  6. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
  7. arbitrary

    arbitrary Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Boston, MA
    I don't feel that its too soon, but I will not go see it.
    Mainly because I don't give a flying crap.
  8. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    People have been making money off of tragedy for years - every WWII movie, every "During the Crusades" movie, all of the holocaust movies, Middle-east based war movies like Jarhead, etc. Heck, I played a board game over the weekend called Axis & Allies: D-Day, in which we basically re-enact the invasion of Normandy.

    Too soon, I can see. Five years is not a very long time. However, there have been terrible historical events (Pearl Harbor) that will get MUCH worse treatment than this seemingly non-exploitive telling of the story.
  9. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    From everything I've read, it is absolutely non-political, almost surreal because it seems like you're right there. Just an attempt to memorialize and document what happened that day.

    Fahrenheit 9-11 was released in 2004; where were the cries of "Too Soon" for that movie? The families actually saw this movie and they say it's not too soon.

    I imagine that I will be one of the many reduced to tears upon leaving the theater.
  10. Bad Brains

    Bad Brains Banned

    Jan 7, 2004
    Detroit, michigan
    If they are giving 10% of the first 3 days worth of profit to the memorial then I'm all for it. After the 3rd day I urge people to sneak into the theatres or download it.

    I am curious to see the movie, but I still think it's too soon. I really don't want to be reminded of that day right now, I remember it as if it were yesterday. From what I have heard the movie makes you feel the same way you did back then.

    This might be a good movie to watch alone with a bottle of Jack at home when it comes out on DVD. That's probably when and how I will see it.
  11. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    Heh, I think this will be one of the few movies that is much better served, more powerful, by seeing it on the big screen; that's why I'm suspending my self-imposed ban on going to movie theaters for this one!

    I actually am a little nervous about seeing it.
  12. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I want to see this movie. I still remember that day-e.g. i was doing a standardized state test [i think it either the ISTEP or CTBS one].

    Great review. I think if the families wouldn't have given their consent-i would say "don't go", but since they did-i plan on it.
  13. AuG


    May 22, 2005
    Fort Collins, CO
    Nice to see that Hollywood can still bank off of national tragedies. :rollno: :spit:
    It really is sad to see how many people think they're patriotic by filling director's and actor's pocketbooks.

  14. AuG


    May 22, 2005
    Fort Collins, CO
    I agree 100%. I however, won't be purchasing it.
  15. I can't possibly see myself ever sitting through a major motion picture based on the events of September 11th. Both of my parents, and practically all of my extended family, and friends live in, or around the city, not to mention the majority of them were downtown the day of the event. I personally cannot support any film without feeling some form of guilt as though all that were lost are being exploited in some way or another. Glad to read that the director did it respectfully in any case.
  16. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV

    You guys talking about the movie industry making money.

    Think about how much money the sticker industry has made.

    Everyone and their grandmother has 15 USA flags, "we will never forget" stickers pasted all over their vehicles. Their profit margins have skyrocketed, but I can't recall an outcry against sticker companies for making money on peoples grief.


    If those who had loved ones involved or were involved personally with 911 find this movie to have value. Then I would call the movie justified.

    I saw it on TV like damn near everyone else. If the people involved with the distaster OK the movie....I don't see how the rest of us could disagree.
  17. +1
  18. AuG


    May 22, 2005
    Fort Collins, CO
    Comparing the sticker industry to Hollywood is absurd, if not completely crazy.
  19. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca

    fahrenheit and united 93 are two very different movies. fahrenheit is an examination (insert whatever qualifiers you find necessary), while united is a reenactment.
  20. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    why do you say this?

    i think there's quite a bit of truth to the comparison. both industries released a product that, in their opinions, honored the victims of the tragic event and aimed to unite the american people. both industries also profited from their efforts, as well, i imagine.

    a sticker isn't a movie, sure, but pride is pride and money is money.

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