Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

United 93

We all know the story told in United 93. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda hijackers took control of four aeroplanes in a terrorist attack on the United States. Two of them ploughed into the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center; one was flown into the Pentagon; and the fourth was United 93. On that plane, fearing the worst, and having learned from frantic calls to loved ones that their plane was going to be used as a flying missile somewhere in the United States, the passengers fought back, albeit ultimately in vain.

These are the facts such as we know them today, notwithstanding numerous conspiracy theories of varying credibility.

I have watched almost every film and documentary on 9/11 that has crossed my path, but this is far and away one of the most traumatic I have seen.

Some of the reasons for the power of this film include: several key roles of armed-service and air-traffic control personnel are played by the people themselves; the cast of actors is largely made up of "unknowns"; and incredibly taut direction by Brit helmer Paul Greengrass. He puts you right in that plane on the edge of your seat for a huge chunk of the running time.

How this movie is not in contention for Best Picture at the Oscars this year is beyond me. I don't think I will see a film as good as this in quite some time. Thankfully, Greengrass has not been overlooked, and he is up for Best Director.

You might say, "Well, it's easy to manipulate the viewer and provoke an emotional response when you use a true story with an inevitable ending." Sure, I accept that on a certain level. But how many true-life films have you seen that are shit? My guess is: almost every one you ever watched. This is a horse of a different colour entirely. All those disaster movies you've seen? All those plane-hijack scenes you've watched? They will be as nothing to you once you have watched United 93.

The one thing that caught me off guard slightly, and I don't understand why Greengrass did it, was the use of David Rasche in a small but potentially important role. Rasche used to play the lead role in an offbeat US comedy show called Sledge Hammer! way way way back, so his appearance slightly shattered my concentration on the film at hand. This unnecessary known actor broke the tension a little too much for this viewer.

The scores
Acting: 14
Story: 14
Direction: 17
Enjoyment: 16
Involvement: 18
Total: 79

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