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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “United 93” (2006)

September 11, 2011

When this film was released just five years after the September 11th attacks, many felt it was too soon to already have a movie about the events. That year, Oliver Stone was releasing his A-list cast film “World Trade Center”. As a movie I thought it was good, but it just seemed disconnected to me, since the roles of the heroes are being played by famous actors. Paul Greengrass took the exact opposite approach for “United 93”, by casting a bunch of unknown actors or actors with familiar faces, but you don’t know their name.

Coming off “The Bourne Supremecy”, Greengrass felt that he wanted to tell a true heroic story about the ordinary people of Flight 93. The brave passengers taking back the captive plane and averting it’s destination (the Capitol Building). The films overall portrayal is extremely just and very real which is probably why part of the reason many film goers didn’t  see it. The movie wasn’t a box office success, and in some ways it wasn’t intended to be, it was made to get the story out there. Movies last for generations and generations to come, I can say that “United 93” is one of most important films of this generation and will last forever.

I stated above that the choice of casting unknowns in this movie was smart. It gave better connection for the audience (and myself) to empathize with the characters. Each actor bravely portrayed the real persons of that flight. Greengrass made sure of it that the actors met the familes, learned from there; how they talk, what the said as their final goodbyes, what the wore, and so on. It’s a true testiment on how respectful a director and cast can be to a true story. Greengrass made another bold choice, by casting the real life Boston/Cleveland airport responders.

The look is as gritty as “The Bourne Supremecy” and harsh as “Bloody Sunday”. Greengrass seems to be a fan of the hand-held shakey cam method, the purpose of that style is to ground the movie in realism. Some may find it a bit disorienting, but I like it. I like that feel, that realism to a movie. It works for the Bourne series, and it especially works here.

Theres not much else I can say about this sobering film. It’s gut-wrenching because the outcome is already known, even though in the film you see the plan that the passengers are planning, you want them to succeed, but in the end they succeed in a different way. While difficult to watch, director Paul Greengrass’ film has been made with skill and treats the subject matter with respect, never resorting to enhance the reputation of beyond what is justified, which Hollywood has sometimes been accused of doing in past films of this callibar. It’s cast is effective being that it’s a cast of mostly unknown actors, who portray the passengers of the doomed flight as ordinary people who respond with bravery to extraordinary circumstances. Rent this movie and watch it for yourself, you will shed tears, especially the last five minutes.


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