movie film review | chris tookey

United 93

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  United 93 Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.54 /10
Capt. Jason Dahl: J.J. Johnson, Ben Sliney: Himself
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Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Paul Greengrass

Released: 2006
Origin: UK/ US
Colour: C
Length: 111

Can any of us not remember where we were five years ago, when we saw the first pictures of 9/11? And who among us on the night of 9/11 did not have the nightmare of being on one of those terrorist-controlled airliners Ė especially on United 93, the fourth plane to be hijacked and therefore the only one on which the passengers knew what had happened to the others? I certainly did, and I wasnít sure whether or not I wanted to live that experience again in the cinema. If I were related to someone who had died, I would have looked forward to this movie even less. But watch it, I did; and United 93 turns out to be one of the most powerful, visceral films Iíve ever seen.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Ethically, itís a tribute to director Paul Greengrass that in researching his film he has involved the relatives of those who died, and been sensitive to their wishes.

The film is upsetting, but itís also inspiring to see the human spirit responding to terrorism. . Even though this is ďonlyĒ a movie, it does what only movies can do: make you truly feel as if you were there, but simultaneously give you an overview of what was going on.

United 93 is immaculately researched, expertly shot in a cinema verite way at Pinewood Studios, and makes marvellous use of an unknown cast, some of them actors but a few of them - mostly in the various control-rooms that were trying to make sense of unprecedented events unfolding at terrifying speed - real people who took part in the events, recreating their actions and reactions with astonishing authenticity.

Some critics might argue that Greengrass could have done more to analyse the causes of 9/11 and the grievances of the terrorists; but that is for another film. Iím sure he was right to narrow his focus and make the film that he has achieved so perfectly.

He captures how it must have felt to be intimately involved in the dayís shocking events, and he does so to devastating emotional effect. He doesnít sensationalise or sentimentalise. He tells it how it was Ė and utterly gripping and involving it is, too.

So much has been written about events of that day that we may feel we know all there is to know, every conclusion there is to be drawn. But I was surprised at the almost complete lack of preparedness of the authorities, and the tragi-comic failure to lead by the President and Vice-President when hard decisions had to be made in a hurry.

Horrific as the attacks were that day, they might easily have been worse; and the authorities were at best ineffectual and at worst incompetent. For me, the most unexpected and disturbing aspect of the movie is the total lack of forward planning or procedures by the military to click into place when the nature of the attacks was known.

Disaster movies come in every shape and size, and are generally used to inspire us with tales of heroism. There is heroism in United 93, but itís of a non-Hollywood, realistic kind. Greengrass celebrates not only the heroism of the ordinary passengers who tried to overpower the terrorists, but just as importantly the humanity and innocence of those who did not.

This is a great thriller, but itís more than a thriller. It tells a story that needs to be told, and remembered. For those in any position of any power or influence, it should be an inspiration and a warning: to ensure that nothing similar can happen again.

Watching it is much less grim than you might imagine. It will make you treasure your own life and loved ones all the more.

There hasnít been a more superbly realized drama-documentary, or one that will etch itself so deep in the memory. It cries out to be seen.

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