Best Movies of All Time + [United 93]

DVD Challenge #21: UNITED 93

United 93
R
Run-time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Today is an historic day in American history. It marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Five years later, director Paul Greengrass released a rather controversial film entitled United 93, which told the story of the flight of passengers on the last hijacked plane who managed to seize control of the aircraft and crash it into a remote field in Pennsylvania. We can only speculate as to its true target - most people, including this film's creators, posit it was somewhere inside the nation's capital - but there's no denying that the risk these unknown heroes took saved countless more lives on that infamous day.

I originally saw United 93 during its theatrical release in 2006 with my father. Not one to see many movies, he was adamant about seeing this film, so I decided to tag along. Much like we did during 2004's The Passion of the Christ, the two of us spent most of the film fighting back tears. Because it's such a high-profile subject, everyone going into the theater knew exactly how it was all going to end, but they still chose to re-live the experience. I'd like to use Rottentomatoes.com's review aggregate to illustrate my meaning further:

Potent and sobering, United 93 is even more gut-wrenching because the outcome is already known. While difficult to watch, director Paul Greengrass' film has been made with skill and treats the subject matter with respect, never resorting to the aggrandizement of which Hollywood has sometimes been accused. Especially effective is the cast of mostly unknown actors, who portray the passengers on the doomed flight as ordinary people who respond with bravery to extraordinary circumstances.
I don't think there's any way I could possibly explain it better myself. Greengrass' direction is
stellar throughout the film - he garnered an Academy Award nomination for his directing, in fact - and the cast is so superb that you almost forget they're merely actors portraying a role. It's an incredibly emotional experience that grabs you by the heart and never lets go. I'm sure there are naysayers out there who have called the film exploitative, choosing to take a stance against such a beautiful piece of work, but I see United 93 as a tribute to the men and women who gave their lives that day, and especially to those who stood up against evil and fought back with all their collective might.

Every American who was old enough to form a cogent memory has a story of where they were when they heard the news of the September 11 attacks. If I may, I'd like to share my story with you. I was two days from turning thirteen, having just started the eighth grade. A month earlier, my mother, sister and I had visited New York, spending a week taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling city. The vacation was still fresh in my mind. I remember being awoken early that morning by a phone call from my dad, who was already at work for the day. His message was simple: "Hey, turn on the news. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center." More intrigued than anything else, I flipped on the television and immediately saw the horror of the devastation. As I listened to the news report, I saw the second plane hit the south tower, and my heart instantly sank. I, like the rest of the country, knew in that instant that this was no random coincidence. The very fabric of the American lifestyle had changed in the blink of an eye, forever altering the path our lives were going to take.

I could probably talk for hours and hours about the events of that day, but the point would be moot. We all know what happened, and it's forever locked into our memory, no matter what we try to do. I would like to applaud Paul Greengrass and the rest of the cast and crew of United 93 for being brave enough to bring this heroic story to the big screen. I can't imagine the opposition they must have faced in trying to create this film, but to have done this so tastefully should earn them an incredible amount of respect.

That being said, this is one DVD Challenge that sees the film taking a back seat to the real-life heroes whose story inspired the film. The passengers on United Flight 93 changed the very definition of "hero." They accepted their fate and did what they could to ensure the same fate would not come to even more people that day.

Today is a day that will always live in infamy, but we can never forget the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Even ten years later, it still seems surreal, and having visited Ground Zero in New York, I can tell you that it's an equally sobering experience. To all those people who lost their lives, rest in peace. We will never forget.