I could have done without “United 93.” I could have continued to live my life pushing the thought of terrorism and the infamy that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 to the far corners of my mind. But I chose to remember; to experience and to take an emotional beating that no filmmaker has ever been able to give to me. But at what cost? Must we, as innocent moviegoers, carry the burden of these images? If you care to relive one of the most horrifying and heroic stories ever told, “United 93” is waiting to tear your heart apart and leave you gasping for air.
But it’s just a movie, right? To put it all into perspective, “Passion of the Christ” has nothing on “United 93.” Never has a film manhandled me both physically and emotionally with such an unbearable force. The moment the credits rolled, I was uncontrollably panting for air, my face was numb from my ears to my chin and my heart wanted to burst out of my chest and hide. Tears could be heard hitting the ground while both men and women let out all emotion in the back of the theater. It was as if everyone had come together to remember and mourn for these brave individuals one more time. I’m far from the “emo” type and I can admit I never dropped a tear on the morning of Sept. 11. But “United 93” can take anyone, no matter how tough, and make them feel what the passengers felt: The most pure form of fear and adrenaline that shouldn’t be transferable by a projector and a screen.
Obviously, the movie’s subject matter alone is enough to make it one of the most avoidable films of the year. Its story and constant ability to captivate its viewers, however, make it unfortunately attractable even to us, the generation that will never forget.
“United 93” is daring enough to invite the audience to step into the minds of the valiant passengers and crew aboard the fourth plane to crash on Sept. 11, the nervous yet proud hijackers and the powerless flight controllers on the ground whose jaws couldn’t be lifted off the floor.
Writer and director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Identity”) seems to know how to make a movie. Nearly every camera is handheld and filmed using a lens that makes every scene look all too real. Greengrass was very wise in choosing to have an entire cast of no-name actors. There’s no better way to create a sense of realism than with a group of talented actors that you’ve never seen act in any other role. It’s also surprising to see a few members on the cast playing themselves, such as a Newark International Airport tower controller.
Aside from the feeling that you are attending a memorial, “United 93” offers somewhat of a documentary-like, behind-the-scenes retelling that many will find both informative and depressing. Most argue, however, that what all Americans really need is a plain documentary, not a film that asks its audience, “How do you make the last phone call of your life?”
From the moment the terrorists first take over the plane to the gut-wrenching climax when the passengers unite and courageously try to win back their lives, “United 93” is a masterfully crafted film that I wish wasn’t so painful and terrifying to watch. There is no entertainment in watching what no man, woman or child should ever experience. Nor is there any joy in feeling the hatred emanating from the hijackers eyes. However, there is great value in remembering and commemorating the brave and united individuals aboard “United 93.”
I could have done without “United 93,” but as difficult and unsettling as it was to watch, the events that we have tried to forget for five years mean so much more to me now. So must we carry the burden of these images? I say yes, for it is our gift to them, the passengers aboard United 93, to remember.
Now the choice is up to you; will you remember?