Watching the movie United 93 in an empty theater at 5pm on a Monday was perhaps the best way to see it. It is movie that you should make up your own mind about, more than any film I've seen in good long while. It is not a movie that you should be comparing notes about, sharing your 'favorite scenes,' talking about which actor you though was great or which was terrible. It's a movie that you need to take into yourself and reflect on your own feelings...both about the movie and the true event on which it is based.
First the things that matter less. It is well made, well written and well performed. No one performance stands out, because no one character is given prominence. There is no fancy writing, no fancy lighting, no fancy editing. And that is how it should be. It takes you through the events of that morning and ends where it should with minimal exposition. It is both unflinching and heavy handed. As far as I can tell it has no agenda besides presenting the story as well as it can. A story that we will never no the real truth of.
Stories are important. Bed time stories, fictional stories, stories of our past, stories of history. September 11th gave each of us on particular story to tell: where you were. No event since the sixties shootings of Kennedy, Kennedy and King has the same weight of being able to crystallize a single moment in so many minds. Telling stories of that day is a right of passage particularly for New Yorkers. I don't mean this to lessen anyone else's stories, but New York was especially affected by 9/11. These stories are important. They help us remember such a pivotal event, and event that is so shaping the world right now. There is the before-and-after feeling of that day. Right now think about how the world has changed. Think about not your daily life, but EVERYTHING. It is the fulcrum on which the next decade, perhaps century will be balanced on.
That's why United 93 is an important movie and why now was the time to make it. We need to remember that moment of realization that everything had changed. And, if anything, that what this movie is about. Many have said it is about heroes. Perhaps for some, but for me it is about desperation. It is about that singular moment in time when you suddenly realize that nothing will be the same again. It is about that sudden shift from one reality to the next. It is about the airtraffic controllers and administrators suddenly faced with a world that made no sense, information that made no sense. It is about not having a plan for something seemingly inconceivable and attempting the parse it into a plan of action. It is particularly about the passengers and crew on United Flight 93 being faced with certain death and no time and doing something. They didn't have the luxury of absorbing the images from CNN or Fox News. This movies is about that moment. It's not about choices. It's about the lack of choices.
There of course has been much talk that to even make this movie is exploitation, that it is too soon, that it is the filmmakers trying to make money off tragedy.
Let's first consider a studio head or a producer being presented with this movie. Do you honestly think that any of them would say, "Hey, sounds like a summer block buster!"?
Secondly, people have become so jaded by Hollywood, any movie, that they forget that film can be Art (yes, capital 'A'). The vast vast majority of films are entertainment. From the Mission Impossible 3s to the artiest of art films, they are still, on some level, entertainment.
United 93 is not entertainment. It is Art. It is an attempt to capture a moment of time that defies journalism. Yes, it is not the real event. It is an interpretation of those events, as is all history, as is all art. But it is important (but not Important) because this is the story of how our world became to be. And, like all great Art, if you allow it to penetrate you, it will bring up emotions from your depth. It will make your remember and reflect.
Should you see it? I can't say. It will not be for everyone right now. Everyone needs to come to it when they are ready. If you have any reservations about bringing those emotions back up, don't see it. Don't see it because someone tells you that it is 'great.' You need top approach a film like this on your own accord,on your own terms. And it has flaws. (There is one European character, perhaps German, that is given a role, that while it fits into the scheme of possible reactions to the hijacking, is still disappointing. Why the one non-American passenger, not counting the hijackers? If I ever get director/writer Peter Greengrass in a locked room, I have some harsh questions for him.) All I can say is that it is the one movie I had no desire to pick apart. Those that know me know I love to pick things apart, so that is saying a lot.
One final note: I spend way too much time on the internet. I have watched the Loose Change video. I can play conspiracy with the best of them. I know the theories that supposedly no plain crash in that Pennsylvania field. That all the events of 9/11 were manufactured. That flight 93 was created to make martyred heroes for that day. My response?
Fuck you. Yes, that's right. Fuck. You. I'm far left liberal who believes in questioning the every story and 'truth' you are presented with. Yes, question everything. Think hard about the event of that day. Think about all of the people, at all levels that it touched. Occam's razor.
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