United 93

Cover Art and Menu: 6/10
I think my approach to this movie was a bit on the dark side, to be honest. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. At least the cover isn’t outrageous or tacky. It’s basic and that’s good enough for me on this one. The menus are just collections of things related to flying, so they are functional, but not very dynamic. I didn’t really want any hooplah with this DVD anyway, so again, that’s fine with me.

Features: 8/10

  • United 93 the Families and the Film Featurette – If you weren’t crying at the movie, you will when you watch this hour long documentary that follows the family through part of the process of getting this movie made. We get to see some of the actors meeting family members of the people they portrayed in the movie. It’s awkward at times, but I suppose for those people it was a good thing to meet the performers who, in a weird way, brought their loved ones back for just a little while. It’s a good feature and it gives you an idea of how seriously the film makers took the whole project.
  • Director Commentary – This guy worked really hard at making a film that wasn’t Hollywood brash. He’s sensitive and mindful of every thing he does while he making the film. You can tell from his comments and recollections this wasn’t a project he took on lightly.
  • Memorial Pages – Pages that highlight and tell more about the passengers of Flight 93. They weren’t just blurbs on the news, they were real people just going from one place to another and they got caught up in something they had no control over. It’s a nice feature, if you like to get sentimental. Get the tissues, again.

The Movie: 8/10
Like I said, this was not a movie I was looking forward to, for one reason. I was afraid it would be some kind of balls to the wall action flick that had Hollywood money grubbing hand prints all over it. I understand that many tragedies from around the world and through history have been the subject of films. That’s cool with me. I think things like 9/11 shouldn’t be forgotten, but can’t be treated like some kind of call for patriotism. If they had stuck some action hero movie star in any of the roles and given it the big special effects treatment, it would have sucked. Thankfully they did not.

From the beginning of the film you feel like you are simply following some average every day people onto a routine flight from one place to another. It has the feel of Elephant, another topical film that tells about another disturbing event, the day of the Columbine shootings. We are introduced to the passengers, the terrorists, the pilots, flight attendants, and peripheral people in such a casual way. It’s like a fly on the wall approach. We get bits and pieces of who they are, where they are going, but mostly small talk. It’s away of getting to know “characters” that seems so familiar and close. It was the first sign that I was wrong about my pre-conceived notions about this film.

It’s not just the telling of what happened to the people on the flight. It cuts from air traffic control, to the FAA, to the military, and then back to the people on the flight and what is happening from the time the plane is boarded until it’s last moment in the air before it crashed. It’s a grim topic. I mean, how would I say I LIKE a film about a true event that was the end of so many peoples’ lives. And then how can I say I didn’t like it? Either way it’s a sticky subject.

So, I did like the film. I didn’t enjoy it. It was stressful and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing most of the time. Not because I knew anyone involved in 9/11 or that it has some kind of morbid grip on me. I was just thinking of all the people, everywhere in the entire world who are caught up on these kinds of tugs of war between governments, cultures, leaders, religions, and lost causes. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t so much give you that “rah rah, we want the good guys to win” kind of feeling. It’s more like “What the hell is wrong with people?”

The actors are all low key, no one steals the show or gets campy about their parts when it comes to the more intense scenes. The director and crew do the best they can to tell the story up close and personally, even when the plane takes a nose dive, you really feel it. I don’t mean that in a fancy special effect or stunt way. It’s more like they did their best to put us in the middle of things, not to glorify it.

The music is somber and mostly emotional. Even though the film doesn’t play on your sentimentality much, it’s a sad event with a sad outcome. We all know the ending. We all know what we saw on the news that day. There are no surprises, except that the cuts between the air traffic control centers and the military show what kind of a logistical nightmare any thing like this must pose. From the movie’s telling, it was pretty out of control. At one point you see the military watching the events on CNN shortly after the twin towers were hit. I got the impression that it was such a screwed up situation that no one, not even the ones we trust with the most power had any idea how to cope with this kind of an attach. That’s one thing this movie, verses others about that day, does. It focuses on the people who were killed that day, and still pulls back enough to show us a glimpse of the bigger picture. It does all this with a great deal of dignity and respect.

I wasn’t looking forward to it, but now I would recommend it to anyone I think might have an extra box of tissues around. It’s not mushy, but it’s a real thing and if you say it’s silly to cry at movies …… you’ve got every right to express your opinion openly and freely.

Value: 8/10
For 16 bucks you can get this standard version, which is a great price. For around 22 you can get the 2 disc version which has more about the making of the movie. If you are interested in just the movie for whatever reasons, just rent it. It’s not a watch over and over kind of movie, that’s for sure. If you want to have it for more historical reasons (not that it’s historically perfectly accurate) it’s worth the extra few dollars for the special edition.

Overall Score 8/10