There are no recognizable faces in Paul Greengrasss new film, United 93. There are not really even any starring roles. There is no heroic music, no special effects, no chest-beating patriotism, no squared jaws, no exquisite profiles, no extended love scenes. As he did in his 2002 film Bloody Sunday, which dealt with the 1972 massacre of
Perhaps one reason the film is so effective is that it shows the unfolding of September 11th much as most of us experienced it as spectators. Aside from the doomed Flight 93, the action is almost wholly confined to the control towers in
Meanwhile, Flight 93 is preparing for takeoff, most of its light complement of passengers and crew unaware of the tragedy already set into motion. It is there, well into the flight, that the banality of a long trip across country is interrupted by the explosion of violence that, for those passengers, marked the beginning of 9/11. There are of course, no living witnesses to what happened on United 93, only the accounts pieced together by the cockpit recordings and the cell phone calls made to relatives from the plane. Greengrass had to fictionalize some moments, but he does so seamlessly and without any cinematic flourishes. As a result, the passengers slow realization that this is no ordinary hijacking, and the decision they reach, seems not just believable but inevitable.
All of the performances are good, but the nature of this film is such that they are also all low-keyed. Instead of Look Ma, Im acting moments, there are brief, memorable vignettes. An older woman on United 93 hands the college girl in the next seat her cell phone and tells her simply, call your people. A group of soldiers in the NORAD control room stare open mouthed at the smoking towers of the
The first showing of the films trailer aroused some controversy from viewers who felt that it is still too early to make a movie about Flight 93, and there are parts of the film that, for our generation, are especially difficult to watch. Its hard to believe, but its nevertheless true that 9/11 will pass, as the Kennedy assassinations, the bombing of the