UNITED 93 (2006) is a movie that holds a strange, moving place in American film history. It is a film that is not often shown on television (cable or non-cable channels) and a film that sadly, hasn’t been embraced by the film world as the modern Classic and testament that it is. Paul Greengrass, UNITED 93’s Director, encountered a lot of misguided and mis-directed resistance by the film industry itself in reaction to President Bush and America’s prosecution of the Iraq War and the Global War on Terrorism. Which is sad. Very sad. For this is a film that should be shown on many American television channels and be one of the top films downloaded on VOD each September.
I write that last sentence out of a sense of Wonder and Hope. Wonder in that UNITED 93 so incredibly captures the real-time events and actions of that crisp, sunny late summer morning. And the simplicity of how easy traveling was in the United States until 8:46 am on that day, as well as the complexity of how our world and the Flight #93 Passengers’ world became in the subsequent minutes afterward. As a fellow filmmaker, I am in awe Mr. Greengrass’ and his Production Crew’s work to make what happened on United Flight #93 as moving and real as they could. They got it right – in spades. From the film’s opening with the terrorists in their hotel room the night before to the crashing of the airliner, UNITED 93 is filmmaking at its best.
Hope comes to me in that UNITED 93 shows us the bravery of the amazing Passengers that morning and what they did which inspired the rest of us to get off the deck and as my fellow New Jerseyan, Todd Beamer, said to everyone – “Let’s Roll.” The film, using no well-known actors and some real on-the-ground participants, draws you in and makes its moments feel as vivid as if it was happening right before you.
While UNITED 93 was not nominated for Best Picture at that year’s Academy Awards, but Director Paul Greengrass was for Best Director. Not getting nominated to win the gold Oscar-statuette doesn’t tell us if this film was a great one. Standing the test of time and transporting its audience back to what happened that day at each viewing… is what makes UNITED 93 a great film and one which you (and your family, friends and co-workers) should see in the next day or so. Please take a couple of hours soon if you can to see this film and to help remember and honor those brave Passengers of UNITED 93.
Note: There is an excellent and poignant extra Special Feature called “United 93: The Families and the Film”” which documents how the filmmakers gained and worked with the support of the UNITED 93 Families. In this extra, many of the actors from the film meet the family members of those United Flight #93 passengers they portrayed on screen. Some of these family members’ stories about how they recovered from what happened and how they moved on are inspiring in themselves. Quite frankly, this featurette is among the best post-9/11 documentaries I’ve seen.