Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” is coming out in August this year, featuring Nicholas Cage and Maria Belo, but until then Paul Greengrass offers up “United 93” the tale of the fourth plane that never made it to its target on 9/11.
The movie is shot almost in a documentary style that gives the impression it’s the actual footage from the actual events. The movie scenes switch back and forth between the plane, air traffic control and military command, everyone trying to make sense of what’s happening given the information they know. This is probably the most interesting aspect of the film, it simply documents an event rather than inserting pieces of information we know now and offering a more retrospective story. This is also a dangerous aspect in my opinion simply because it gives the impression that all of this is accurate when I can’t imagine how they managed to piece together the complete dialogue of either the passengers or the terrorists if everyone died. Phone conversations and cockpit recorders aside, there are obviously many things they could not possibly know. This became apparent to me more and more as the film progressed and there were scenes of terrorists saying Islamic prayers, most of which didn’t make sense because the Arabic in the film was more or less incomprehensible. There was also a scene where the camera shifted back and forth between the cockpit where two terrorists are uttering Islamic prayers and then immediately to the back of the plane where the passengers are uttering Christian prayers which made it feel that it was one religion versus the other; both groups competing for God’s attention.
I guess the point of the film is to give the viewer a sense of what happened rather than what actually happened scene by scene, word for word. Does it make a difference? Definitely. And therein lies the problem; the viewing audience will no doubt get both mixed up. Much of what the film showed was basically information provided by the government so I cannot assume this is 100% factual in any way given that it’s one version of the events. This is important to consider because most people watching it will be making certain assumptions about fact; it’s almost impossible not to when you factor in the way it was shot.
The movie isn’t really entertaining, probably because it wasn’t designed to be. But it doesn’t attempt to further any understanding of what really happened or why it happened. I highly doubt we will ever see a film like that. There are so many unanswered questions about what exactly happened on 9/11 that one can never accept one version of the truth as brought to you by CNN or the American government. I’m not calling this or anything else 100% propaganda, but in terms of truth and reality it’s far from it. For me 9/11 was my second day of classes during my freshman year of university. Living near the Toronto airport I remember so many planes being diverted from the U.S. that I was barely able to hear the TV. And I remember so much misinformation during that very long day that some of the questions people were asking then continue to be unanswered now. People are generally afraid to ask them or question anything about the history lest they be deemed anti-American or a history denier. What you usually get is one group that totally accepts everything as the truth, another that totally denies it, and nothing in the middle. So if someone were to make a film that really captured my attention it would be one that challenged the Ã¢??truthÃ¢?Â, which investigated history rather than dishing up a glossy version.
All in all “United 93” does not offer anything substantial that you would expect from a film. What will probably carry it is either “controversy” or “hype”, both of which it does not live up to. The point of the film was simple: get people to shake their heads and say “that’s horrible” and in that sense it succeeds.
Bottom Line: 2/5