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On September 11, 2001, two American Airlines and two United Airlines domestic U.S. flights are hijacked by terrorists. After the collision of two planes against the World Trade Center and one against the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 decide to struggle against the four terrorists to take back the control of the airplane. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Devastating, Relentless and Ultimately Cathartic Essential Viewing. Period.
A most cathartic experience came over me when I viewed the much publicized "United 93". At once speculative and realistic, the 111-minute film will surely bring back the pall of fatalistic inevitability one feels about 9/11, but its more defining characteristic is revealing the untapped heroism and humanism of people caught in the most malevolent of circumstances. Masterfully written and directed by Paul Greengrass, this relentlessly intense movie covers that fateful morning when United Airlines Flight 93 departed Newark for San Francisco with 33 passengers and seven crew members on board.
As it turns out, Greengrass's heavy background in documentaries turns out to be a blessing in this treatment, as he tracks the subsequent events in real time and uses either under-the-radar actors or actual aviation personnel to play the real-life characters. Instead of focusing on the higher profile passengers to provide an emotional locus, which a more commercial filmmaker would have done, he encompasses all the passengers within the emotional purview of the film, including the four hijackers who killed the pilots and took control of the plane. The key dramatic difference is that we get to know not the people but the situation at hand. Consequently, we get a more realistic sense of the scale of the events that may have occurred on that flight. That's not to say it is any less devastating. In fact, the last half-hour is harrowing in the most personal sense as the inevitable becomes reality.
The power of the film comes from its surprisingly apolitical perspective and the inclusion of the ground personnel trying to comprehend the scope of all the redirected planes that day, in particular, Ben Sliney who effectively plays himself that day, the just-promoted supervisor of the National Air Traffic Control Center in Herndon, Va. None of the actors stand out because the film cumulatively achieves a verisimilitude that simply knocks me out. The film also does not pretend to be the definitive version of what happened on the last few moments of the flight. In an emotional sense, it is rather moot as we are talking about degrees of detail at that point. This is truly essential viewing.
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