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UNITED 93 REVIEWED

The slogan for 9/11 is "Never Forget" but I wish I could.

I long for the days of September 10th before Gatorade was considered a potential explosive.

When the most lethal thing about someone's shoe would be the horrible odor.

When we didn't have to chase phantoms.

When we didn't have to give up our freedoms so we could hide underneath an American flag, peeking out through the folds, wondering what dangers lie ahead.

Though there's been worse calamities to face our country than the events of 9/11, few have motivated Americans like that day has.  A tsunami with casualties nearly 100 times greater merits some donations and a telethon, but the suicide airline crashes into The World Trade Center and The Pentagon was a paradigm shift in the way the world related to each other that for better or worse definitely changes the game for generations to come.

Though calling United 94 a "Holiday Classic" may seem a bit much, I sincerely believe that Americans should watch it every September 11th with the same reverence and compassion that one would watch It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas. The film so easily could have so easily been some throwaway film on Lifetime, but ends up being captivating, tragic, tense, informative, frustrating and heartbreaking film that makes for quite an experience.

The direction and editing in this film is fantastic.  Though you know exactly what's going to happen, watching it unfold is a roller coaster ride of nerves.  Even when the stewardess gives a passenger something to drink, it's hard to watch, because you know that every second the travelers spend on that plane is one of their last.

A cast of mostly unknowns take you through a near real time look behind the scenes of that fateful day.  The confusion at the FAA, Air Traffic Control, and the military is phenomenal.  Chaos and fear reigned supreme while many watched helplessly, wondering why transponders on aircraft stopped working, communications with the planes were ceased, and disappearing off the radar.  Soon, after the first 3 planes crashed, the word spread while thousands screamed "Holy Shit!" watching the footage unfold on CNN.  This news soon made it to the passengers of United 93.

For once a plane full of people yakking on the phone was a good thing.  As they got word of the events unfolding around them as the terrorists take control of the plane, they know that it's no financially motivated hijacking, and that they're onboard a plane that's going to kill far more people flying within.  Watching the passengers make the decision to coordinate their efforts and try to regain control of the plane is exciting and depressing at once.  Though "Let's Roll!" is a cliche used far too much as hype since that day, it's as kickass of a tough guy line as Bruce Willis saying "Yippie Ki Yay Motherfucker!" was in the first Die-Hard movie.

I'll go as far as saying the final 5 minutes of this film are among the most tense I've ever seen.  Were this film a work of complete fiction, it would be just as wild to watch as it is knowing it's all true.

Many of the actors cast in the various passenger roles were able to meet with the surviving family members to get all the little nuances down, and the result is a very human and real collection of people thrown together from many different backgrounds.  It's a stark contrast from the typical Hollywood disaster movie with a ton of celebrity guest stars and cameos.  You'll get no Leonardo DiCaprio or even George Kennedy here.  Just a bunch of unfamiliar faces that give you the voyeuristic feel that you got to go back in time and spy on a real historical tragedy. 

The portrayal of the terrorists are impressive as well.  They are not just cartoon turban wearing stereotypes you'd see in a Schartzenegger or Norris pic, but fleshed out multi-dimensional characters that are not sympathetic, but at least motivated properly.  The stress and nervousness they exhibit while boarding the plane and waiting to carry out their plan is almost painful to see, it's executed so brilliantly.

The last seconds of the film made me feel numb, dazed, and in shock.  Watching the towers crash in NYC was like watching a horrible monster movie come true and left me with a craving for revenge.  But watching the way the passengers deal with things the way they did in United 93, I at least feel solace that not everything went the bad guys' way on that day.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

 

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