United 93

Taking a break from the De Palma-fest to go see a current release.

Actually, turns out there is a De Palma connection to this project.  Among the many unknowns and non-professionals, Gregg Henry shows up as a guy in a military outfit talking on a phone in some room somewhere.

The movie is certainly gripping, an enormously polished piece of filmmaking by a supremely talented director, but it is also something other than entertaining.  One-third of the way through, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see this happen.  Two-thirds of the way through, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see this dramatised, reduced to an action-movie anecdote.  When the guy behind me shouted “Beat that fucker!” as the passengers took over the airline, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be in the theater.

I could be wrong (the experience is quite upsetting), but dramatically, the message of the movie seems to be: the government is incompetant, the military is incompetant, the airlines are incompetant, even the airplane staff is incompetant; if you want to be saved, you have to save yourself.

Maybe that’s why the studio only advertised on right-wing blogs for opening weekend.

The “common folk” band together and take back the airplane, not to prevent it from crashing into the Capitol, but to try to land it themselves.  Needless to say, they fail; the plane crashes seconds later. 

A downer in every sense of the word.

Full disclosure: my wife and infant son were on United 93, not the one that crashed, but the same flight, same plane, Newark to San Francisco, a few days earlier.  One of the flight attendants was rude and unhelpful to her regarding her infant car seat.  My wife was so angry that she demanded the woman’s name.  The same flight attendant was on the United 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.


17 Responses to “United 93”
  1. eronanke says:

    I have to be honest; you couldn’t pay me to see that movie, in the theatre (where my money would somehow get to the makers/studio) or otherwise (illegally downloaded, for example). I think the term “too soon” has been bandied about, but I think it’s a crock. We make movies and entertainment out of current events all the time. South Park, the Daily Show, and others are deemed ‘acceptable’ partially because they use comedy, and partially because they work with the facts – they take a story and create humor around it.
    Drama, however, is another story. It’s ‘serious’ and cannot easily be written off. As a historian-in-training, I hate the idea of a studio inventing events and personalities around real people, mostly because releasing it as the studio truth as a ‘testament to the bravery’ of those aboard. The short answer is, we have very little idea what exactly went on aboard the plane, and I hate to think that one person out there has been defrauded or degraded or, worst of all, canonized because of events we cannot prove happened. I refuse to sit through anything so propagandic, even if it isn’t POLITICAL propaganda, per se. I’m sure this movie doesn’t lean too far left or right, (at least from what I’ve read in reviews), but I hate to think that anyone would use this piece to prove either a left or right political skew. Mostly because we’ve seen how texts can be taken completely at face-value in order to subjugate and oppress, (e.g., the Bible).
    I’m sorry, I totally didn’t mean to write this much, and I’m sure it doesn’t make any sense.
    Was your flight attendant a character in the movie?

    • Todd says:

      Was your flight attendant a character in the movie?

      You bet. It was weird.

      • eronanke says:

        That’s kinda what I mean. Didn’t you see her in the movie, and all of a sudden, be forced to change your mind about her?
        I mean, not that movies about people aren’t great, but sometimes I think (especially with a movie reflecting current events and civilians), that making a movie about them takes away the right to have our own opinions about them, such as, in your case, a rude stewardess. I know that I would feel guilty remembering she was a bitch from then on.
        Did the movie change how you feel about her? Please say no!

  2. craigjclark says:

    I’d say this paragraph from the review in the Philadelphia Weekly sums it up for me:

    I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to skip this film. We all have our own memories of that morning, feelings we hold dear. United 93 brings the sickened helplessness flooding back like it was yesterday; watching the film made me almost physically ill, and I still have no idea at what moment the tears started rolling down my face. Is there really any reason to go through this all again?

    Of course, the next paragraph in the review is a simple “Maybe so,” but I know I don’t feel the need to put myself through something like that right now.

    • goodtoast says:

      I agree.

      Normally, I adore movies that aren’t simply made for entertainment’s sake. But…this…

      It’s too soon, too painful, and, amazingly, too well done. Talk to me again in 20 years.

  3. Anonymous says:



  4. r_sikoryak says:

    This is a movie I’m really, really interested in seeing. (K. wants no part of it.)

    Precisely because it’s “so soon”, it seems like it’s got a good chance to be a more accurate reflection of what really happened. (Considering so many witnesses/participants are alive to be in it, for one thing.)
    And I’m curious to see how a conscientious director can put the pieces together.

    And yet, I don’t want catharsis or an emotional ride– I’d like to get some understanding. Maybe the subject is too raw for a film to deliver that.

    Matt Zoller Seitz has an interesting review here: