|August 17, 2006
I can remember exactly where I was when the events of September 11, 2001 took place. I was at home working on my computer. At roughly 10:45pm, I changed the channel on my television hoping to catch the late night news. What I saw was the now famous image of the World Trade Centre on fire. I was still glued to the screen 5 hours later. It’s was the kind of event where you dare not look yet you cannot turn away. All I wanted was information. How did the terrorists do this? How many people were killed? What would the ramifications be?
Almost five years has passed since that evening and much has been said and written about that date. We’ve heard about the heroes who saved many lives. We’ve heard about the loved ones who sadly perished. We’ve heard about the government’s lack of action prior to and during the event. It’s a difficult subject for some but I’ve found it extremely interesting.
Now, for the first time, a major film has been based on the terrorist attack. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a major Hollywood studio is trying to cash-in on the tragedy. United 93 is a respectively made film which serves as a tribute to the brave people who boarded the fateful flight.
The opening scenes show a group of people going about their daily lives. The only thing they have in common is that they are about to board United Flight 93. In the back of our minds, we know these people will die and it is this lingering thought that gives the film its emotional power. These people are ordinary. There is nothing special about them. They talk and act just like you and me. It makes you realise that they could have been a friend, a family member or maybe even yourself.
Shot in real time, the film follows the passengers, the pilots, the stewards and the terrorists from the time just before boarding to the moment the plane crashes. Their story is intermingled with the drama unfolding on the ground. The first reaction at the National Air Traffic Control Centre is that the reported hijacking cannot be true. As the truth and gravity of the situation starts in, panic and miscommunication engulfs the air traffic administrators and the U.S. military.
Writer-director Paul Greengrass doesn’t have an agenda and isn’t trying to force-feed a message to us. He is simply showing the events as they happen and it’s up to us to take something away from it. It’s reminiscent of Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday, an incredible film about the death of 13 protestors at a 1972 rally in Northern Island. Some details will never be known but Greengrass has done his best to base the film on facts. He has listened to the cockpit voice recorder and spoken to family members who received phone calls from those aboard the flight.
United 93 is a difficult film to watch. The documentary-like style will make you think you are watching the real thing. I walked out of the cinema with a stunned look.