Thursday, January 11, 2007
United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) 
This is one of the toughest films that I've written a review for mostly because I'm attempting to separate the emotional impact that the film delivers, which is undoubtedly the strongest I can remember in sometime, and where this stands as a film. There is no doubt that this film has an emotional impact; for me, it was the feeling of complete helplessness as you know where the film is going and what the final outcome will be. Yet as the film unfolds and the people on that flight are shown, the anxiety within me grows as I know what is coming. That's the extraordinary power this film has, especially for the first hour or so leading to the hijacking of the flight, when you know what's going to happen and are helpless to either stop it or just get it over with.
The director of United 93 is Paul Greengrass, who made Bloody Sunday, an amazing film about the violent 1972 clash between Irish Catholic demonstrators and Protestant, British police in Northern Ireland. The docudrama style of that film fits perfectly here, as it allows to capture everything just as it happens, not allowing point of view to come into play, which would have crippled the film. Greengrass does a great job of creating a taut, streamlined film that conveys the frantic action on the flight as well as the bewilderment and near incompetence of the people on the ground trying to figure out what to do and what's going on. The first half of the film is immensely effective, creating a powerful amount of nail-biting tension that is released as the hijackers take over the flight. From then on, Greengrass does a good job of keeping the film focused and not becoming emotionally manipulative. He does a good job of keeping the hijackers human and not some kind of action movie villain cliches. And all in all, the film becomes a memorial to those who did what they did on that flight without turning the events into a jingoistic rallying cry. But as a film, it seems too preoccupied in being a memorial, evidenced in the title cards at the end. The actions of those onboard were no doubt heroic but the film differentiates between those who acted and the ones that did nothing. We can never be sure what happened down to exact details, what actually happened and what we want to believe happened. Even though, this is still an impactful film.