10:57 AM

United 93

When I first heard about a movie coming out about the flight of United 93 on 9.11.2001, my initial thoughts were negative. As a screenwriter who is currently working in a historically-important aviation film script myself, I wondered how any writer could possibly make this horrible event into a theatrical production without glamorizing terrorism.

And since the cockpit vice recordings were just released to the public a few DAYS before United 93’s release, I had to wonder just how accurate this movie could be, from a purely aviation point of view.

But today, Roger Ebert released his review of the movie, and gave it four stars, his highest rating. This guy knows movies, so if he says it’s good, it must be good, at least from a cinematic standpoint.

Of course, the subject is still going to be very, very difficult to consume:

"To watch "United 93" is to be confronted with the grim chaotic reality of that autumn day in 2001. The movie is deeply disturbing, and some people may have to leave the theater."
With my two years of work fine-tuning Three-Eight Charlie’s script, I have gone to great lengths to make my story so accurate, any pilot who sees it (which I hope will be about 600,000 of you) will not leave the Cineplex shaking their heads, wondering how Hollywood could get is so wrong again.

So this weekend, I’m going to go see United 93, and see if they got the aviation stuff right. I’m not a scholar of 9/11 per se, so I may not be the best person to comment on the historical and/or political aspects of the film. But how they depict ATC, the operations of the aircraft, the pilot's language, etc. is what I'll focus on...and have a report up by Monday that will aim to report how much the director got right, and where they dropped the ball.

UPDATE 04.28.06 235P: Earlier, I mused about how United 93 Director Paul Greengrass could have possibly knew enough inside info to make this movie without the contents of the cockpit flight data recorder being made public until just days before the release. Under further investigation, there was a clue hiding in Ebert’s review:
At the FAA national center, the man in charge, Ben Sliney (playing himself) begins to piece things together and orders a complete shutdown of all American air traffic.
Yes, it was a very wise move to attach Sliney as first a Technical Advisor, and then as an actual actor. Maybe this was how Greengrass got “inside” the FAA to obtain the goods.

There is a very interesting interview with Sliney found here.

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