September 11, 2001: a day when the citizens of the United States of America learned to fear for the worst. As the first plane hit the World Trade Center, feelings of bewilderment and accident washed over the country. Conversely, when the world watched the second plane slam into the South Tower on live television, emotions of alarm, apprehension, and terrorism swept the nation.
United 93 is a powerful film that rekindles all of these emotions in the deepest of ways. It gives you, the viewer, a firsthand retelling of the hijackings that occurred on that fateful day. In addition, it depicts how one set of passengers — aboard United Airlines Flight 93 — banded together in bravery, in an attempt to regain control and save not only their own lives, but also the lives of other innocent Americans.
The film takes place in real time, chronicling the two attacks on the WTC: the one on the Pentagon, and finally the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is presented from three main points-of-view: Air Traffic Control’s, the military’s, and the passengers of Flight 93.
To say that United 93 packs more of an emotional wallop than its TV counterpart (Flight 93) does would be an inaccurate statement; both portray the events in an equally honorable and gripping manner. It’s just that United 93 does it more professionally and personally. While Flight 93 shows all of the ground contacts (i.e., friends, family, and 911 emergency staff) and their strife with talking to their loved ones for the last time, United 93 keeps you in the air, within the walls of the aircraft. It intensifies the urgency, increases the tension, and makes you feel like one of the passengers, and for that, it is all the more harrowing, emotional, and civil.
Director Paul Greengrass takes a documentary approach to the making of the film; in doing so, he creatively captures faith from both sides of the spectrum. In the film’s final sequence, as the passengers rush the cockpit, the prayers that were previously extended (to God/Allah) unite the victims and the terrorists (albeit the terrorists possess different mindsets) in struggle. With unflinching honesty, Greengrass is able to portray the tragic events in the most logical and authentic of manners.
United 93 is a valiant requiem to those who lost their lives on September 11, most specifically those who were onboard United Flight 93. It is a testimony to the power of terrorist prevention and to the hearts of the deceased. Three planes hit their targets, but because of the courage dramatically depicted in this film, Flight 93 fell short of its intended target – the U.S. Capitol. By no means does United 93 fall short; it is dishearteningly sharp filmmaking that digs deep.
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