Release Date: 2006
Director: Paul Greengrass
Why I picked this: The subject matter
It’s one thing to watch a film in which you know the ending, but couple that with the fact that it is based not only on a real event, but a fairly recent one, makes for a unique film. Taking place on September 11th, 2001, this dramatic film, which often feels like a docudrama, depicts the passengers and hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 as they heroically prevent the plane from reaching its intended target, along with the air traffic controllers and various authorities on the ground as they react to the sudden and horrific events of the day. When following the many authorities and officials depicted, there’s this authenticity in this film that is missing from other similar films, part of which is because some of these figures are portrayed by themselves. As the events of 9/11 unfold in real time, the tone becomes more frantic; they yell at each other demanding action or information, they gather around and attempt to gauge what is happening, they stand in silence as they watch news reports of successful attacks. Meanwhile, on the titular United 93 plane, the hijackers are given their own attention, showing their preparation, and their mostly silent argument on when to begin their mission. While they are meant to be hated, they are still shown to be human beings. The lack of any name actors portraying the passengers really heightens the realism of this movie. None of the passengers are depicted outside of the airport or airplane; you may not even hear anyone’s names, as they never ask each other; but their background is not what is important for this narrative, rather their actions on the plane are. But their personalities still come off very strongly, with many of the passengers easily distinguished from the others. The increasing panic as they learn more information comes across as genuine, with many of the passengers and crew exchanging quick and overlapping conversations in an attempt to assess the situation. It is a very stressful and intense film, especially the last few minutes, where the passengers execute a bold and heroic plan. You wish nothing more but for the passengers to succeed, even when you remember that the plane will still crash. Still, it is an inspiring story that is presented in a respectful manner; nothing seems gratuitous or out of place. The film is shot with mostly handheld cameras, mostly to depict the uneasiness and confusion of the events; it’s all very gritty and real. It is certainly uneasy to watch, but a satisfying experience all together.
Genuine, authentic, and nerve wracking, this depiction of this side of 9/11 is successful in honoring the passengers of the flight and depicting the desperation and confusion of those on the ground.