Adziu (adziu) wrote,

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Film Impressions: United 93

It must be said, even before watching this film, I was wondering about the moral questions surrounding its inception. A movie about 9/11, focusing on the passengers who were on the one plane that crashed before reaching its intended target, as well as the chaos in various air control rooms as the disaster unfoled, must of course raise some questions of propriety. Is it appropriate to make a movie about human suffering when it's so fresh in the memory? The film-makers paid for a memorial, but surely they still made money in the box offices - from very real stories of death; should that be countenanced? Would the film turn out to be a flag-waving piece of propaganda, and thus cheap?

Fortunately, the film is, I think, everything it could have been. It wasn't wrong to have a dramaticic retelling of the event when it had already been extensively covered in the media, when there was already another docudramas extant (Flight 23, The Flight that Fought Back) and when, frankly, there is a huge audience. One only baulks because there are so many people whose feelings are still raw, whereas a film about the Holocaust, for example, seems more acceptible because of the soft filter of time. But the film treats the subject with due respect, and perhaps the only objectionable element is how artistic licence was used to make a German passenger seem to be the only one preaching non-resistence - reportedly because of the man's widow refusing to cooperate with the filmmaking process.

The chaos in the air control rooms makes it more understandable why more couldn't have been done during the emergency, with the sheer number of planes to track, problems with radar and various channels of authority needing to be gone through, but is still as critical as it needs to be. It actually opens with the terrorists and humanises them, showing their fear, their weakness, yet their courage too - despite the horrifying actions they are undertaking. Using the scraps of evidence available, it reconstructs what happened, and to my relief, shows the passengers who fought back were no more heroic than those who died on the other planes - they were in a privileged position of knowing that the planes were going to be crashed into structures, that they were not going to be taken to an airport safely for ransom, that it didn't matter if the man with the bomb detonated it, given that they were all going to die anyway. The terrorists made the mistake of striking too early and giving the passengers time to fight back, and it is both poignantly uplifting that they did, and saved a national monument and no doubt many lives, and crushingly devastating at the same time, for they most likely came so close to saving themselves.

The real details are what moved me - to be reminded how debilitating inertia in a plane can be when it moves, to hear real calls that were made by real people who thought they were going to die, and who were right.

Reality is terrifying in a way fiction never can be. But it is also the additional emotions inspired by such a piece as this that stop it being a piece of light entertainment, and allow it a significance that 'A film about 9/11' cannot encapsulate. I'm glad this film was made, and I'm glad I saw it - whether or not my money went into the pockets of its makers.
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