Top positive review
"United 93:" Harrowing and difficult to watch, but should be seen by everyone.
Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2016
I first saw the film “United 93” when it was released in 2006. Since this was the first dramatic film about 9/11 – the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 – I was curious to see how Hollywood would treat this sensitive subject. Would moviemakers treat this tragedy in their usual histrionic fashion, making it an exercise in crass commercialism… or would they seek to honor the victims in a more subdued, historically accurate manner?
Fortunately for all concerned, director Paul Greengrass and his production team chose the latter course, thereby creating an outstanding film that dramatizes the events of that day while at the same time honoring every one of the 40 innocent souls who lost their lives aboard United Airlines Flight 93.
“United 93” presents a clear timeline of events aboard the doomed jetliner from the time passengers, crew members, and four terrorists boarded in Newark, New Jersey until the moment it crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Much of what is dramatized is based on transcripts of radio transmissions and telephone calls, and recalls the heroic efforts of passengers and crew to reclaim the aircraft from the terrorists who had hijacked it.
The film also gives an account of the larger tragedy unfolding in the skies at the same time. Air traffic controllers hear garbled radio transmissions from three other hijacked aircraft and report their suspicions to supervisors. The Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Force struggle to sift through frequently confusing and faulty information in their efforts to keep abreast of the situation, and make correct decisions on how to best respond.
“United 93” has a realistic, almost documentary feel to it. The acting by its fine ensemble cast is subdued and very natural. (Actors selected to portray passengers and crew met with family members prior to filming, and several other cast members were participants in the actual events of the day. They included air traffic controllers, U.S. Air Force command and control officers, and even the then FAA Director of Operations.)
The Blu-ray edition of “United 93” includes the feature film (presented with outstanding 1080p video and DTS Master Audio quality) and a host of excellent special features. The bonus material includes a documentary about the families of the United 93 passengers and crew, and another film that documents the events of the day as told my many of the participants.
I’ve seen other films with 9/11 at their subject matter, and none of them are anywhere near as good as “United 93.” Even now, fifteen years after 9/11, this is a difficult and harrowing film to watch. But it should be seen by everyone. Most highly recommended.