(Review originally written at 14 July 2006)

When you think of 9/11, you immediately think of the burning twin towers. The WTC has become a sort of an almost symbolic icon for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Flight 93 and flight 77 (the plane that hit the Pentagon) are always sort of pushed to the background. "United 93" finally tells us the story of what happened on flight 93, the flight we perhaps know the least about and also probably were still are the most questions about. It certainly does justice to all the people who lost their lives that day and shows us an important story which we should never forget.

It's very tempting to turn this movie into a sort of heroic and patriotic movie or a typical over-dramatized disaster movie production. Luckily this movie choices a realistic approach. It's an almost documentary like observation of what happened in the sky and on the ground in the control centers. It makes the movie look very real and therefor we can also feel the emotions, fear and confusing, almost as if we were present there that day. The shaky cam, the almost entirely non-experienced cast, it all contributes to the realistic aspects and overall feeling of the movie.

The movie doesn't only focuses on what happened on flight 93 but also on the other event of 9/11, in between. Because of this you really get the feeling your back on that faithful day again and makes your re-life the day and remember your first initial emotions.

Finally the persons of flight 93 now have a face and personality for the world. Not only the passengers and crew but also the hijackers as well. It makes the events of flight 93 so much more emotional, sensible and powerful. We see the people as ordinary people which we could easily identify ourselves with.

But not only the persons are now a lot more clear and known to me but also the rest of the events set around flight 93, such as what happened on the ground in the control centers. It absolutely surprised and stunned me that absolutely no one on the ground was prepared for terrorist attacks or even an hijack. There were no procedures, the communication was poor and basically no one knew how to handle correctly, both civilian personal as the military. It makes you wonder what would had happened if the terrorist attacks were executed on an even larger scale, or what would had happened if America was under a surprise attack by a different nation. Judging by this movie, I don't think they could had prevented anything from happening if it really occurred. I for a fact know that here in the Netherlands it's standard procedure to immediately send out one or two F-16's to intercept a plane if it doesn't make radio contact and this was already the case prior to 9/11. Why didn't the U.S. had standard plans and procedures for this? OK of course the Netherlands is much smaller and doesn't have such a busy and full airspace as the U.S. so perhaps its not entirely fair and logical to compare it but what do I know. My point is that I was amazed that no one in the U.S. had any standard procedures ready for events like this and how completely unprepared they were for any attack on their own soil.

Of course we will never fully know what happened on flight 93, so we will also never know how accurate this movie actually is. The movie of course takes lots of liberties and had to improvise a lot but it did this in the most realistic way possible. Paul Greengrass did a great job making this movie and he obviously did it for pure and non-commercial purposes, very much like his previous movie "Bloody Sunday" about the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops.

Not a much talked about element of the movie (and understandably so) is the musical score by John Powell. I thought that it suited the movie and its feeling very well and it was a very subtle, beautiful score. An Oscar-nod perhaps next year for Mr. Powell?

An important, powerful movie about an important event in recent history, which we prior to this movie knew yet so little about.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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