—2. Cast and Crew
—3. Photo Pages
—4. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—5. Posters (Airplanes)
—6. Production Notes (pdf)
—7. Spiritual Connections
—8. Presentation Downloads
I usually like to start my reviews with some fun play on words, but that seemed entirely inappropriate for UNITED 93. It’s just too sobering, too serious, too important and too tragic a movie to inject any humor into the situation. Many people aren’t ready to see a depiction of what happened on 9/11/01. One critic said, “it’s the best movie this year that nobody will want to see.” I attended a 4:00pm Friday showing in a fairly small town and the theater was over half full. Perhaps that critic is wrong. Perhaps people do want to see what happened.
I wanted to see UNITED 93 for several reasons. One, I like the work of director Paul Greengrass and was impressed by his last effort, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY. Two, I attended college with both UNITED 93 victim Todd Beamer, and his wife, Lisa Beamer, author of the popular and poignant Let’s Roll. While I can’t say we were good friends, I remember both their cheerful faces around campus, and I wanted to see how they depicted a fellow Wheaton alum and brother in Christ. Third, I wanted to remember what happen. I wanted to not forget.
Director Mel Gibson said a big reason why he created THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was that he wanted people to remember and not forget what Christ endured for you and me. Indeed, whoever sees that movie will have images indelibly etched on their memory. Watching UNITED 93 was a little like watching THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. It’s all horror, all the time – and it’s real. It happened. It’s not a pleasant experience, and it invites you, along with the panicked passengers, to feel their pain. You ride right along side them and slowly realize that this situation isn’t going to get any better, only worse. It’s sickening really, but it was very, very profound.
We meet the passengers, crew, terrorists and air traffic controllers as the events of the morning of 9/11 slowly unfold. Greengrass constantly keeps the camera in motion, achieving a newsreel, cinema verté look that strongly complements the action on screen. We take a look inside the cabin and see the last phone calls to family and friends. We see the frustration of the air traffic controllers and the military as they feel confused and unsure of how to interpret the unthinkable events they see. We witness the take-over plan the passengers come to agree on, once they know the plane is on a suicide mission. And, we see their final retaliation on the terrorists, which has them storm inside the cockpit, but as history records, only too late. UNITED 93 is a window to what could have been, a plausible, but slightly flawed depiction of that doomed flight.
Unfortunately, two aspects of the depiction of my classmate Todd Beamer saddened me. First, his character swears a lot on the plane. Believe me, I’m no prude and if I was getting hijacked by terrorists who wanted to kill me, I’d probably swear a lot too, but we saw many other characters on the plane who didn’t swear much if at all. And knowing Todd’s great Christian character, I think he’d leave the lion’s share of swearing to someone else. Secondly, his wife took great pains to write in her book that it was her husband Todd who said the words “Let’s roll” on the plane, and Greengrass puts these words in another actor’s mouth – another young man actor who looks somewhat like Todd but isn’t the Todd Beamer character. Anyway, I may nitpick, but I wonder what Lisa Beamer thinks about these things.
Some conservative and Christian film critics are unhappy that the film isn’t more patriotic. I think they are wrong. First, at the start of the movie, Greengrass shows a billboard that reads “God bless America” as if to say from the get-go, this movie is for our side, our home turf. Secondly, he lets the facts speak for themselves. We see Muslim terrorists pray. We see Christians recite the Lord’s Prayer. We see a cross section of America in the cross hairs of evil and nobody wins. We, if we see it in a movie theater, get to sit amongst fellow Americans and collectively share our grief. The movie does honor the dead, and so it honors America. Afterwards (and during the movie), I cried, but I also felt like giving a fellow movie watcher (i.e. American) a hug because we lived through a very profound and life altering event together – this 9/11. Heck, I’d hug a non-American too if one was nearby and he’d let me because we’re all human and we all know pain.
I have a slight fear that this movie may stir up anti-Islamic feelings amongst its viewers but those who thought THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST would stir up anti-Semitism were wrong. After all, sin is no respecter of race or nationality. We’re all on this planet together, and we are all made in the image of God. And, those who follow Christ are called to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. I pray this movie compels all who watch it to love more, hate less, pray more, curse less, and look for opportunities to reach out to others, especially those who are still reeling from the pain of 9/11.