Last night, I went to see United 93 at the 1035P showing, and can say without reservation that I have had a very, very restless night. Unless you take a handful of Ambien, do not see this film right before bed. See it during the day when you can go home and chill out with some Merlot because you’re going to need several hours – maybe days – to get over the sheer terror this film throws at you.
Prior to the feature, I sat through the usual previews, and as always, a couple were “horror” flicks, which I consider to be a real waste of perfectly good movie film. These were your typical slasher garbage aimed at the 13-18 year old male demographic, where a young, pretty, innocent girl is told not to go into the attic but does anyway, releasing the undead demons who chase her ass down and filet her into kabobs using shards of some kind of crucifix.
Then there is United 93. You want terror? U93 delivers the kind of real-time fear that will send shivers down any spine. If you aren’t clutching the seat with both hands by the time this film is half over, you’re a cadaver, baby.My assignment was to go to the theater to report on all the aviation inaccuracies I could find. We all know Hollywood has a way of sometimes getting it wrong when it comes to aircraft in movies, so with pen and tablet in hand, I sat ready to rip U93 to shreds.
I never picked up the pen.
Director Paul Greengrass achieves U93’s overwhelming power simply because it is so incredibly accurate, from a sheer aviation perspective. I am not a student of 9/11 facts and figures, so I’m not the guy who can say if he gets the timeline exactly right. But by utilizing FAA’s National Operations Manager Ben Sliney as a Technical Advisor, Greengrass is able to tap into the very heart of the FAA’s information pool…but wait, it gets better.
Greengrass also casts Sliney as himself, and Ben pulls it off perfectly. Who better to play the role than the guy who lived it? Brilliant. And while I do not know this to be true, all the ATC controllers working the screens sounded like real controllers, and not one "over and out" was heard. It also appears the ATC scenes were shot in actual radar facilities and ATC centers, because it looked perfectly real in every way.
Maybe it is the realism of the ATC scenes, and maybe it is the fact that we all know the unfortunate ending to this movie, but if there was ever a film that kept you on the edge of your seat, this is it. I nominate Greengrass for the Best Director Oscar® right here and now.
A couple of final notes. First, kudos to Greengrass for the way he depicted the violence in this movie. We all know the story, so we know that at some point, box cutters are drawn and things are going to get ugly. I’m happy to report that the Director handled this portion of the storyline with taste – never showing the wounds or the wounded’s face – and all with a minimum of blood. But the powerful terror that this film throws at you is far more potent than any slasher film showing any number of nubiles getting sliced and diced into oblivion…because THIS WAS REAL!
I give this film five stars out of four (if that’s even possible) and recommend it highly….that is if you can handle it. This is not a film for everyone, and frankly, I cannot even begin to feel the pain that the surviving families of U93’s passengers must have endured if they choose to see the movie.
Only one knock is that the White House's bungled response on 9/11 was completely removed from the story. If you know the tale of My Pet Goat, then you’ll be ashamed at how Greengrass caters to the right by eliminating any mention of that portion of the factual evidence that is so well known about Bush’s less-than-heroic handling of the situation.
Closing: As an aviator, this film hits the mark. As an American, watching it is like getting kicked in the head by a mule. The most tragic day in our nation’s history – September 11, 2001 – will forever be etched in our memories.
We will never forget, nor should we.