Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Premise: A dramatization of the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, with a focus on the crew and passengers aboard United flight 93.
What Works: United 93 cuts between the people on the flight, various flight control centers, FAA headquarters, and the military response. Its focus on the management and the conflicts between these groups are very well executed and the film avoids clichés of the disaster genre by eliminating high ranking political figures from the event and focusing on the people directly involved. United 93 is able to avoid the “hindsight is 20/20” dilemma facing a film like this by creating the sense of blindness and confusion in the moment despite the fact that the audience has intimate knowledge of the event.
What Doesn’t: The trouble of United 93 is that dramatizations of historical events must have something to say, something that contributes to or refreshes our understanding of the event. United 93’s finale is so abrupt that it does not stop to allow the audience to process what they have seen and bring about these kinds of conclusions. This seems intended to be shocking and leave the viewer with the emotional horror of the event, but without a proper denouement, the film does not allow the audience to process the event and the question, “What does this mean for us now?” still lingers.
Bottom Line: While United 93 is not the first dramatization of the events of September 11th, it is possibly the best one so far. The film manages to present the material in a way that does not exploit the subject matter but does acknowledge the drama and horror of the event. Although it is weak on the element of revelation, it does present this material in a very impressive manner.
Episode: #94 (April 30, 2006)