United 93
The boarding gate screen for ill fated United flight 93.


Golden Mug

WINNER: Director (Paul Greengrass), Film Editing (Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse)
NOMINEE: Picture

Theatrical Release Date: 04/28/2006
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Refreshingly, not about individual casting so I’ll leave it at that.

If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s that reopening fresh wounds is fun. Why let something heal when you can pour some salt in a cut or twist the knife before removing it?

That’s how I see Hollywood green-lighting films about 9/11 so soon after the tragic events. Five years may be enough time to get over some girl who slept with your roommate in college but like most Americans, I can still see those planes hitting the World Trade Center over and over again.

I don’t need a film to remind me how horrible it was. For many of us born after the JFK assassination, our touchstone of shared loss will be 9/11. If I want to feel dejected, I can just look at my credit rating.

To make matters worse, Paul Greengrass’ “United 93” does not have enough real facts to make a film about the events on the flight in question. We are left with something more akin to Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant”. We know many of the details but the interpersonal stories and the true events that unfolded onboard that fateful flight will never be known.

All of that being said, this is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen.

It follows the entire events of 9/11, from the hijackers leaving their hotel, boarding United flight #93, taking over the plane and the passengers attempting to regain control. Along the way, the events that took place at both military and civil aviation control centers were depicted, as was the effects of the other three hijacked planes that day.

You do see the World Trade Center being struck.

And it is awful. Painful. Horrible. Agonizing. Despicable.

Seeing that moment on the big screen, as the second plane hits the other tower … it’s like being punched in the heart. The sheer helplessness and rage I felt on 9/11 rushed right back over me.

You see the smoke pouring from the towers and the Pentagon after it was struck.

More rage and agony just pour over me.

Then the events on United 93 unfold. The passengers gather themselves and rush the cockpit. As we all know, the plane goes down and everyone aboard is killed, like all the other victims on that day.

This leads me to the two problems with the film. One, after United 93 goes down, there are about five or six paragraphs of text that sum up the events and aftermath of that day. I think it would have been a stronger statement just to go to a black screen. We all know what happened. We all sat there glued to the TV for a week watching terrible replay after terrible replay.

The other problem I have is that it shows that one of the hijackers was reluctant to take the plane and that was why there was a delay in that flight’s deadly journey. You also see all four of the depicted hijackers praying and being scared of the passengers as they start to formulate a plan and rush for the cockpit.

Here’s what I have to say about the men who seized any plane that day:

Fuck you.

Fuck you and I hope if there is an afterlife, you are being slowly eaten by insects and having your nails ripped off slowly and repeatedly for eternity.

I have no mercy for those vermin. Fuck them.

Is the entire geo-political situation complicated and screwed up? Yes.

Do I agree with all of America’s foreign policy? No.

But I also will not knowingly resort to killing innocent people to make a statement.

That’s not a sign of faith in a cause. That’s a sign you have lost your faith.

If the world is so terrible and you feel the need to lash out, do the world a favor: just swallow a bullet. Let your God handle the punishment for everyone else. Or are you so arrogant to believe an almighty and benevolent power needs us killing each other in their name?

Fuck you.

Sorry to be so blunt and full of rage but that’s how I feel. Seeing this film again rehashed everything I felt that horrible day.

If I were rating “United 93” based on its merits as a film, it would receive a 5. The actors are nothing short of amazing, the direction is top notch, and the production value is stellar.

But I would tell everyone I know: DO NOT SEE THIS FILM.

Why would you want to relive the tragic events of 9/11? What can you possibly gain? All I have is a reawakened sense of rage and the urge to kick someone’s face in.

I’m not proud of it but as I was leaving the theater there was an apparent college student of Arab descent leaving as well and I cold have sworn he had a smile on his face. Maybe his friend had just told him a joke but as I was done with “United 93”, I was not in the mood for the funniest joke in the world. I can’t fathom how you can leave a film of this emotional magnitude and even think of putting a smile on your face.

When I saw that smile, I imagined myself placing my foot down his throat and stomping until I reached his stomach. I wanted to bash his face in and wipe that smile off his face.

What a great message to receive from a film, huh? The rational side of myself says I misinterpreted it all because of my heightened emotional state. But just like on the actual 9/11, reliving it all made me want to punish someone.

It didn’t make me take stock of my life and want to reprioritize things. This was a real event that happened to real people all too recently.

Even after actually watching “United 93” and seeing how visceral and gut-wrenching it is, I cannot say it was a good decision to make the film.

I didn’t really want to rate the movie at all. It cheapens the lives lost that day (except the hijackers who are beyond my scope of compassion).

After driving home and writing this review, I’m finally beginning to calm down. But I’m not going to edit what I have written. Let this review serve as a warning. If I said too much about it or my personal thoughts are too disturbing, that’s just too bad.

Unless you want to get riled up and push to launch some missiles at a country or send in the special forces to kill more people, “United 93” is not for you. I just can’t see how watching this film will do anything but stir up all the feelings we’ve all tried to manage and move on from over these last 5 years. Maybe in ten or twenty years, this will prove to be a exemplary look at what happened, but I’m just not ready for it yet.

And if anything, what we owe to the people who lost their lives that day is not a blurb on a movie screen dedicating a film to their memory. We need to be living our lives and telling the assholes responsible that their actions will not stop us from being who we are.

For better or worse, our lives are our own and we should not cower in fear of people who have lost their way and can do nothing but strike out against others.

If there is a higher power and there is a heaven, we won’t be seeing them there.