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  • United 93: Movie Review

       April 30, 2006

    Like many other readers, I saw "United 93" this weekend. I have very mixed feelings about the movie.

    First, it's actually two movies in one. One movie is about 9/11 from the perspective of NORAD, the FAA and air traffic controllers around the country. The other movie happens aboard United 93. The film unfolds in real time, so I think the ground story is told to help us understand the timing of what going on in the air. The problem is that until the last 20 minutes or so of the movie, the stuff happening on the ground is so much more interesting than what's happening on United 93. When the scene shifts to a flight attendant serving breakfast, I just got impatient (one thing this movie shows is that there are so many good 9/11 stories to be told. For example, I'd go to a movie just about the air traffic controllers that day.).

    Frankly, the early "air" story is a little boring. The filmmakers were so determined to shed any Hollywood "emotion" from their movie that they don't do any kind of character development. The film is cast with relative unknowns, although sharp-eyed viewers will see Christian Clemenson (Socrates from Brisco County, Jr.) as would-be pilot Tom Burnett and Peter Hermann (he played the scientist who cloned Reva on Guiding Light, but is better known as Law & Order's Mariska Hargitay's real-life husband) as Jeremy Glick. The passengers are never formally identified by name, although most of the audience will recognize Todd Beamer from his baseball hat. In a way, I guess the filmmakers see them as representative Americans. But doesn't that cheat them of some of their heroism? Maybe anyone in that situation would fight back, but that shouldn't diminish the fact that they did.

    So, yeah, I wanted to know more about the passengers. But that's my only real complaint about the movie. Even though you know how it's going to end, you still catch yourself wishing so hard for it to turn out differently. It's also a little amazing to me to realize how deeply I hate the terrorists on that plane. I hate them and I fervently hope they're burning in the hottest pit in hell. I read somewhere that the director did 40+ minute long takes in the plane and that afterward the actors playing the terrorists and the passengers broke down and sobbed and embraced. I can believe it. They all commit to their roles. I think that was probably easy to do for people who played heroes, but I applaud the actors who played the terrorists. They played evil and succeeded in making their characters completely unsympathetic. I liked watching the terrorist with the "bomb" go from being in control and threatening to the passengers to being scared to death of them.

    I think we've all imagined what the last few minutes on that plane were like. For me, the film captured it. At the end of the day, I think that was the filmmakers' goal. We see the information exchanged and spread through the plane, final calls home, planning and a desperate battle. If you wanted to see this movie, that's what you wanted to see. Or, more accurately, what you needed to see.

    All in all, I give the movie a 7.5 out of 10.

    Posted by at April 30, 2006 05:27 PM

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    #  April 30th, 2006 6:11 PM      james
    you paid to see that movie? i wont do that. i hope it loses the producers kajillions of dollars.

    nothing in that movie can possibly be factual - no one has any clue what happened on that plane. it's just a lot of fluff, and sad and sorry attempt to profit from the tragedy.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 7:08 PM      KVBigSis
    I think filmmakers feel a need to tell a story, and I think that's what motivated Paul Greengrass. This is a movie with almost no sense of perspective or point of view. It says "Here's what I think happened. Draw your own conclusions."

    Kris and I saw this movie together, and we had different reactions. Kris wanted more narrative structure; I did not. The filmakers had to decide whether to TELL the story or to place viewers IN the story; I applaud the choice they made.

    I didn't feel the sense of hatred Kris did for the highjackers. They weren't evil in the conventional movie sense - that is, they did not ENJOY causing suffering. They were genuinely religious, and there is no doubt they acted from belief in a greater good. Of course, so did Adolph Hitler. I think I'll redefine "fanatic" as someone who never asks the question "What if I'm wrong?"

    It's hard to recommend this movie. I don't know why I felt compelled to see it - but I did. I understand NOT wanting to go to it more than I understand WANTING to go. But to anyone who's thinking of seeing it - see it. It's a gut-wrenching experience, and there's no catharsis, but it tries to be an honest recreation of a day none of us will forget.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 7:21 PM      kris
    Just because someone prays a lot doesn't make them religious. Those hijackers absolutely were evil in every sense of the word. They sat there at that gate and watched all of these people that they KNEW they were going to kill.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 7:52 PM      james
    "Just because someone prays a lot doesn't make them religious."

    um, i think praying a lot is the definition of religious. you probbly mean that just because someone is religious doesn't mean that they're a "good" person. but then again, that's all subjective, isn't it?  
    #  April 30th, 2006 7:57 PM      kris
    no, it's not.

    the hijackers were bad. there's nothing subjective about it.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 8:49 PM      james
    there's plenty subjective about it.

    some people believe that killing criminals is a right and moral punishment. others believe that it's immoral to take any human life for any reason. where you stand is matter of how you view a ton of different things. it's subjective.

    this is no different.

    you can't assign the labels "good" or "bad" to anything and expect to win - each is by definition an abstract concept created by man. different people have very different views on what each means. it's subjective as subjective can be
    #  April 30th, 2006 8:55 PM      kris
    I don't believe that. I, along with many great political philosophers, believe in natural law. There are moral standards that govern our behavior. Those standards can be derived from a god or from simple human nature. These moral standards make me very comfortable with labeling people and behaviors like hijacking a plane and killing hundreds of people "bad".  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:01 PM      james
    so the US, when it drops a bomb in iraq that kills innocents, is bad?

    would it have been "good" to assassinate adolf hitler in 1937? or "bad?" what if assassinating him took out 100 innocents as well?

    what if the next adolf hitler was on united 93?
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:03 PM      kris
    of course it's bad. but it's the lesser of two evils. same with the Hitler analogies, which, of course, invoke Godwin's Law.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:07 PM      james
    what's the lesser of two evils? killing innocents? lesser to who?

    who said there were only two evils?

    there are an infinite number of possible outcomes/paths in any situation.

    your good is another person's bad, and vice versa.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:16 PM      kris
    another person's opinion doesn't negate the rightness or goodness of something.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:16 PM      BVBigBro
    Godwin's law was invoked at comment number 2.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:27 PM      james
    according to wikipedia, godwin's law states: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.[1] "

    you'll note that my comment made no comparison, therefore "godwin's law" was not invoked. my comment used hitler b/c he exterminated at least 6 million people. i could just as easily have used idi amin, pol pot, or 'a rwandan warlord,' the idea being that you would (and did subsequently) argue that it would be morally just to kill someone who would otherwise later go on to murder many others.

    godwin's law refers to statements like "well the NAZIS thought that too!!!"

    this is a completely different context and situation.

    if it makes you happy, next time i'll say "some guy who will later go on to exterminate millions" instead of hitler.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:31 PM      BVBigBro
    Godwin's law was invoked at comment number 2.  
    #  April 30th, 2006 9:32 PM      james
    true. heh.
    #  April 30th, 2006 10:01 PM      kris
    this doesn't have to do with the argument, but I found this video on youtube. it's, well, i don't know how to describe it. it's "devastating" is the best I can do.

    #  May 1st, 2006 9:55 AM      KVBigSis
    Whoa, Kris. I didn't say the terrorists weren't evil, just that they weren't evil in the conventional Hollywood sense.

    I do think there are different kinds of evil. There's a kind that recognizes a moral code and delights in flouting it. There's a kind that recognizes no moral code save self-interest.

    And then there are these guys. They recognize a moral code; in fact they're willing to die for it. That's usually considered one of the highest virtues in our society. So are THEY evil? Or is it just their belief system that's evil?  



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