United 93

Apparently quite controversial if you're a New Yorker. Grow up.

Released in 2006, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 11 Jun 2006 by Craig Eastman
United 93 image

September 11th 2001. Blah, blah, blah. There. I said it. Well, actually what I said was "blah, blah, blah", but my point is that it's about time America got over it. Ooooh! How can he be so cold? Well, the fact of the matter is some 3,000+ people died that day, which by now pales into comparison against the number of innocent Iraqi civilians American troops have shot, blown up, burnt and generally annihilated over the last few years. Ooooh! He must be one of them! A dirty terrorist! Well no, actually. I just have a brain cell or two which I like to keep active, presumably unlike the New York cinema patrons who, upon the screening of trailers for United 93 hollered "too soon!". Get over yourselves and stop playing the victim. Oh no! I done gone said somethin' con-tro-ver-shul again! Gu-huh!

Plastic bubble residents take note. United Airlines flight 93 was on it's way to Los Angeles when ATC lost contact following radio chatter that suggested a hijack. Now, by startling coincidence two other commercial airliners had just crashed into the two buildings of the World Trade Centre that self same morning. You may remember hearing about it on the news. Yet another plane bitch-slapped the Pentagon, but in all honesty nobody much seems to care about that. Much supposition has since followed as to why flight 93 ended up whoring nose-first into a field, with the general theme being "those brave people on board must have known what was going to happen and forced the plane to crash before those evil men with suntans could take out the White House". Step forward Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy and now the first mainstream filmmaker to tackle the bewilderingly still-thorny subject head on via our beloved medium of the motion picture.

And what better way than in realtime, covering as it does the 90 or so minutes from 93 boarding to the time it tried picking potatoes at 250 mph. The big selling point here (other than the obvious) appears to be that greengrass has roped in many of the real people involved at air traffic control and military installations to reprise their roles, whilst casting unknowns and "I know his face" types for the remainder. For the most part it works, even if the naturalistic dialogue in particular begins to grate a little. I don't think I've ever seen a film, I don't think I've ever seen a film where this much dialogue, this much dialogue is overlapped. "Never seen a film where this much dialogue is overlapped?" No, I don't think I've ever seen a film where this much dialogue is overlapped. Honestly, the biggest impression I'm left with is coming out of the cinema thinking how Foghorn Leghorn would make a fucking awesome aircraft controller. On a more serious note (and how), there is at least one fundamental problem that undermined my entire experience.

United 93 image

Now don't misinterpret me; United 93 is actually a halfway decent movie. In fact, the more I think about it the more I suspect it's an above average movie. The problem I have is that wether or not writer / director Paul Greengrass realises it, it's also an incredibly irresponsible film. Annoyingly this could have been corrected with a single title card at the start of the movie, you know; "The events depicted herein are largely fictional" or something like that. Now before the self-righteous among you start hopping up and down in a fit of the screaming hab-dabs, the truth of the matter is quite simply we don't know what happened onboard United Airlines flight 93 other than that it was hijacked and crashed. Fact. In all probability the terrorists may simply have fucked up while the passengers sat screaming and crying in their seats, too terrified to react. Everything depicted in this film pertaining to the events onboard that plane are entirely fictional. While it no doubt serves the ego of every xenophobic, politically entrenched American well to suggest that if the same thing happened again then Of course they would give up their life for the good old Stars and Stripes, the truth of the matter is that here we have a film which, while never claiming to be completely factual, doesn't state that it's mostly not and will subsequently be assumed as gospel by anyone too blinded by flag-waving patriotism to cajole any ammount of grey matter into operation. Unfortunately in the case of Americans, that's a hell of a lot of you guys, and if you're being honest with yourselves you'll know I'm right.

Now, in all sincerity my heart goes out to everyone involved in the horrible events of that day, and that includes not only the victims but also the people who felt so aggrieved as to want to take such action in the first place. My big gripe is not with the sentiment of honouring the people on board those planes, regardless of wether or not they displayed any monumental degree of bravery, but that in neglecting to highlight it's partially fictional nature Greengrass could easily be accused of pandering to an effort on the part of the US government to portray it's citizens as the heroic victims of an assault on it's values by emotionless, evil foreigners with no motive. Of course, the fact that Greengrass pays not even lip service to the motivations of the protagonists annihilates any claim to impartiality he or the studio may be hawking about, and at the end of the day they bloody well know people are stupid enough these days to swallow whatever the media throws at them. Simply being able to turn around and say "ah, but we didn't say it was true" is no kind of excuse whatsoever.

So there you go. I have a horrible feeling that as the red mist has descended I've eschewed professionalism in favour of broadcasting my own beliefs, but then I'm here to give my opinion and if it's become a political debate rather than a film review, well, Paul Greengrass started it. I make no apologies for said opinions mind, and if anyone has anything to say about it I'll meet them "doon the slabbies" any time they like. As a film United 93 is undoubtedly a brave effort, despite the fact that it shouldn't by now have to be. I'm fed up of all this "still-open wound" bullshit the US insists on regurgitating, and I for one welcome anyone who wants to broach the subject from any angle regardless of wether some small-minded twats want to sit around feeling sorry for themselves for all eternity. Just do me a favour and seperate the fact from the fiction first.

Paul Greengrass
Cast list:
Christian Clemenson (Thomas E. Burnett, Jnr)
Trish Gates (Sandra Bradshaw)
Polly Adams (Deborah Welsh)
Cheyenne Jackson (Mark Bingham)