Sunday, June 18, 2006

United 93

United 93 is a difficult film. Difficult to make, difficult to see and difficult to write about. It's uncomfortable to watch. It is not a sentimental soulless disaster cash in. And it may not be an entirely true version of events.

The "build up" to the hijacking is tense from the start. The first scenes show the terrorists praying the night before their flight. We then see the various charachters arriving to work at the airport, boarding the plane and so on. The attack on the World Trade Centre disaster is kept distant, seen on TV monitors and in the distance. The scenes in Air Traffic Control and similar places become worried and frantic but quietly so.

Once the hijacking starts, the scenes on board United 93 are intensely unpleasant to see even though the majority of the violence is not seen and certainly not shown graphically. Here is perhaps where the film could be accused of stumbling a little. It would work better if once the hijack started we stuck with the plane, but unwisely the narrative jumps back to ATC and the military air base. There is a somewhat questionable sequence where the prayers of passengers and terrorists are rapidly intercut but mercifully less than 60 seconds is spent showing the final phone calls of passengers. And the final 30 seconds or so are probably the most afectingly brutal 30 seconds in any film you'll see this year.

Also slightly suspect is the epilogue which bluntly points out the incompitance of the military and government in dealing with the situation. Personally I can see nothing wrong with this but I think it's what's caused some people to brand the film as "politically motivated" and "America hating".

United 93 is a good film. I'm not sure if it's essential. It's definitely moving. It's definitely been made with good intentions. But know that you are not going to enjoy this movie. You perhaps will, however, apreciate it.

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