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UNITED 93


Not all four of the planes hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001 arrived at their intended destinations. We are reminded of that fact in this harrowing docudrama by Paul Greengrass.


CAST: David Alan Basche, Richard Bekins, Susan Blommaert, Ray Charleson, Christian Clemenson, Khalid Abdalla, Lewis Alsamari, Ben Sliney, Major James Fox, Colonel Robert Marr


WRITER-DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass

 


“Greengrass’s movie is tightly wrapped, minutely drawn, and, no matter how frightening, superbly precise...‘United 93’ is a tremendous experience of fear, bewilderment, and resolution...once the flight is aloft Greengrass sticks to real time, and the passing minutes have an almost demonic urgency. This is true existential filmmaking: there is only the next instant, and the one after that, and what are you going to do? Many films whip up tension with cunning and manipulation. As far as possible, this movie plays it straight. A few people made extraordinary use of those tormented minutes, and ‘United 93’ fully honors what was original and spontaneous and brave in their refusal to go quietly.” --DAVID DENBY, The New Yorker

“Even if someone, say, Paul Greengrass, can craft the ideal representation of 9/11 (the most tasteful, the most meticulously researched, the most ‘true’), what does it avail us to watch the thing? I hope I don't sound like a cynic with a heart of lead when I say that ‘United 93,’ as grueling as it was to sit through, left me feeling curiously unmoved and even slightly resentful. At some point, Greengrass' exquisite delicacy and tact toward all sides—the surviving families, the baffled air-traffic controllers, even the hijackers themselves—began to smack of political pussyfooting...Why was this film made, and why was it made now?... Greengrass maintains an almost maddening neutrality—a neutrality that shades at times into what might feel to some viewers like sympathy with the devil.” --DANA STEVENS, Slate

“This is first-rate, visceral filmmaking, no question: taut, watchful, free of false histrionics, as observant of the fear in the young terrorists' eyes as the hysteria in the passenger cabin, and smart enough to know this material doesn't need to be sensationalized or sentimentalized...But without context, psychology, politics or contemplative distance, you may wonder what, exactly, this re-creation illuminates...On some basic level, it can't help but be a thrill ride, albeit one that leaves you somber and drained. Whether you need that ride is a question you'll have to answer yourself.” --DAVID ANSEN, Newsweek

“This is a masterful and heartbreaking film, and it does honor to the memory of the victims...the film doesn't depict the terrorists as villains. It has no need to. Like everyone else in the movie they are people of ordinary appearance, going about their business. ‘United 93’ is incomparably more powerful because it depicts all of its characters as people trapped in an exorable progress toward tragedy. The movie contains no politics. No theory. No personal chit-chat. No patriotic speeches.” --ROGER EBERT, Chicago Sun-Times

“This staggering, draining film is exceptionally accomplished but extremely difficult to watch...It's a mark of Greengrass' unequaled gift for believably re-creating reality that, once seen, it's impossible to get ‘United 93’ out of your mind, no matter how much you may want to...it is a film envisioned as a monument, a memorial tribute, and in our hearts we want something more.” --KENNETH TURAN, The Los Angeles Times

“A persuasively narrated, scrupulously tasteful re-creation of the downing of the fourth and final plane hijacked by Islamist terrorists on Sept. 11...it is good, in a temple-pounding, sensory-overloading way that can provoke tears and a headache...But because Mr. Greengrass treats everyone onboard as equals, and because he throws us into the story without telling us who they are, they never become individuated...the absence of any historical or political context raises the question of why this particular movie was made. To jolt us out of complacency? Remind us of those who died? Unite us, as even the film's title seems to urge? Entertain us? To be honest, I haven't a clue...‘United 93’ inspires pity and terror, no doubt. But catharsis? I'm still waiting for that.” --MANOHLA DARGIS, The New York Times

“For me, Paul Greengrass' meticulously researched movie was a deeply cathartic experience. It's a long, brutal and honest look at a shattering event some Americans would apparently prefer not to see depicted--but also a respectful, inspiring one that's in no way exploitative or emotionally manipulative.” --LOU LUMENICK, The New York Post

“No amount of research or faithfulness can obscure the fact that this is a fictionalized reenactment of an epically painful moment in our history. In the end, nobody really knows what happened on Flight 93 or what ultimately brought it down 90 minutes after it took off. Handled in the wrong way-- i.e., as a standard Hollywood thriller--‘United 93’ could easily have inspired revulsion. That isn't the case here. Although the film has been made with great finesse, it is devoid of showbiz exploitation.” --PETER RAINER, The Christian Science Monitor

“Pulling the bandage of sentiment cleanly away from oozing concepts like ‘heroism' and ‘our nation's war on terror’ in the aftermath of recent wounds, here's a drama about the most politically charged crisis of our time that grants the dignity of autonomy to every soul involved...The final struggle takes only a few minutes, but it feels like an eternity, a blur of action, the deadly outcome of which cannot be changed by wishing it otherwise...Do we benefit from recognizing, in ‘United 93,’ that there's no difference between those who died and us, in fear and in courage? Absolutely.” --LISA SCHWARZBAUM, Entertainment Weekly

“Why anyone would want to revisit the dreadful day of Sept. 11, 2001, is beyond this particular critic. But those who find meaning and catharsis by watching fetishistically accurate reenactments on the big screen will be well rewarded by ‘United 93’...To Greengrass’s credit, he avoids politics altogether, focusing instead on the tick-tock of how reality slowly dawned on an improbably gorgeous late summer morning. ‘United 93’ may be the best movie I ever hated.” -- ANN HORNADAY, The Washington Post

"It returns us to that time with immediacy, intelligence and a full-bodied human impact. Instead of weepiness, it offers us insight and revelation - and what James Joyce in The Dead called ‘generous tears’...In our hype and glitz-ridden pop and political culture, it may take a filmmaker like Greengrass to remind audiences that the reality of humans wrestling with a complicated fate is the truest source of shock and awe...There's no cheap uplift to their victory, no pop catharsis. What's great about ‘United 93’ is that you never feel it's just a movie--even though, as a movie, it's terrific.” --MICHAEL SRAGOW, Baltimore Sun

“If you see ‘United 93’ in a theater with a decent sound system, you’ll notice in the control-center sequences a continuous hubbub in the side speakers. On at least two occasions I turned in annoyance, tempted to go out to the lobby and hush the inconsiderate crowd. But the ubiquitous racket—the busyness, the swerving camera—is part of Greengrass’s strategy. Everything is moving very, very fast and at the same time, in the slowest slow motion. It’s a frantic paralysis.” --DAVID EDELSTEIN, New York Magazine

“An unflinching, powerfully visceral and haunting portrait of the tragic events aboard one of the terrorist-commandeered flights on the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001...it is undeniably the most gut-wrenching and captivating film released this year...Filmed in real time and shot with handheld cameras, it has the urgency and grit of a documentary rather than a big-studio movie. We will never know exactly what transpired aboard that flight, but ‘United 93’ gives us an educated guess.” --CLAUDIA PUIG, USA Today

“There's not an ounce of Hollywood bull in this movie's 111 minutes...Beamer's famous ‘Let's roll’ comment is delivered off-the-cuff, not like a battle cry in a bogus action flick. We will never know whether the passengers actually breached the cockpit. What matters to Greengrass is their collective intent. At the end, he imagines a sea of arms reaching into that cockpit in a way that redefines heroism. Far from being exploitive, the effect is inspiring: This is the best of us.” --PETER TRAVERS, Rolling Stone

If a movie had to be made about the Newark-to-San Francisco flight that crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers tried to retake it from 9/11 hijackers, British writer-director Paul Greengrass did it as well as it could possibly be done...It is a docudrama done with great sensitivity, and with unerring judgment in the writing and in the depiction of the passengers and hijackers...No one can accuse Greengrass of exploitation. But you can certainly question the point of making a movie that--when it ends at the moment of 93's impact--leaves us with the same sickening mix of loss and anger we felt at the time.” --JACK MATHEWS, The New York Daily News