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United 93: Yea or Nay?

Written by: The CinCitizens

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Click here to read CC2k's review of United 93

ImageBecause there's nothing I love more than to rip off the always stellar, I'd like to start our own debate about the appropriateness of the trailer and soon-to-be-released movie United 93.

In case you haven't heard, United 93 is about the hijacked 9/11 jetliner that went down in a Pennsylvania field because of the heroics of the passengers, who stormed the cockpit and brought about the crash of the plane before the terrorists could crash it into a Washington landmark — either the capitol building or the White House, apparently.

Some theaters around the country have pulled the trailer, most notably in New York, where a lot of people quite understandably got upset at the stark, realistic trailer. The movie's director, Paul Greengrass, directed Bloody Sunday, a dramatization of the Irish civil rights protest march and subsequent massacre by British troops in 1972 (thanks, IMDb), so he's explored this kind of grim non-fictional territory before.

My take: Not surprisingly, my first amendment hawkishness trumps the good-taste complaints made about this movie and its trailer. There are no laws against bad taste or bad timing, and I further blanch at granting the 9/11 victims too much power to dictate what bad taste is and what bad timing is. It's incumbent upon all of us — including the victims — to heal, grow, reflect and learn.

Here's my beef with the movie — and it's the same beef I had with The Perfect Storm: everyone who was on that flight is dead, so how the hell can they make a movie about what happened?

OK, yes: We know a lot more about what happened on flight 93 than what happened on the ill-fated fishing boat in The Perfect Storm, but I remain dubious of a movie that purports to be non-fiction yet lacks the kind of ground-level, Truman Capote-style research needed to pull off a fact-based movie of this kind.

Guys? Your thoughts?

— Tony Sanders


I was at the movies on Saturday, when I saw the extended Flight 93 preview for the first time. I don't think I'm transferring my personal feelings to say that the mood in the entire (filled) theater seemed pretty consistent.

First, there was the confused and uninterested rumble that comes from not knowing where the preview is going (a great deal of time is dedicated to them on the tarmac, with a thirty minute delay…).

Then, the first images of the World Trade Center appeared on screen, and all at once it became clear what we were about to see. At that point, the theater was filled with a respectful silence that still descends whenever someone speaks from anguish or experience about that day.

As the preview reached its climax, it used every heart-tugging technique in the book, from overwrought "emotional" music, to heroic one-liners fading dramatically to black after they're uttered. People started to rustle in their seats, uncomfortable either with their memories, or this movie's blatant exploitation of same.

At the end, I know I felt unusually used by this promo, even by movie standards. I have seen movies that by their subject matter were rendered universally above reproach (Schindler's List comes immediately to mind), and in 9/11, I have lived through tragedies that endured an extended grace period, during which it was not socially acceptable to joke or speak casually about them. But in this movie, we have a commerical product meant to create the former by manipulating the latter. Combine that with Tony's Perfect Storm analogy above, and you have in Flight 93 a film that I won't be able to mock, but won't be able to sit through either.

–Rob Van Winkle 


Recently, I found myself discussing this film, as well as the events that it describes, with my father, M. Night Van Winkle. I told him about this forum, and how everyone I have discussed it with seemed to agree that the movie is at best, merely overstating its claims that it's non-fiction, and at worst, blatantly attempting to cash in on our collective trauma from that day. His response, to say the least, was not what I expected.

He said that he had a strong opinion about this movie (and this plane) that no one or nothing could persuade him away from:

Flight 93 was actually shot down. By us.

I was puzzled, and all set to argue the illogic of his claim. But he extrapolated, and made the following points:

1. Because Flight 93 was delayed (covered in the movie), it was still in the air when the other planes hit the World Trade Center (ditto). 

2. The government, as well as the FAA, knew that Flight 93 was off-course, even after they witnessed what had happened to the other three planes.

3. We are being ruled by a hawkish government who has since proven that they will not hesitate to strike a blow if they believe it is the right decision, and will make those decisions quickly.

4. Once that flight was off-course, and if and when those in charge discerned that it was another missile heading to a landmark, it became a decision of taking out one passenger plane, or dealing with the further emotional fallout of whatever happened once it crashed. 

My father has concluded that the decision was made, and the plane was shot down before it could do further damage, rather than what we have heard. Then, we were allowed to believe that it was actually taken over by the passengers, rather then let the hijackers do what they knew was going to happen. This way, not only do we not have to deal with the knowledge that our own country shot down a US plane, but we get to have heroes from that awful day. Now, not only do the people on board Flight 93 become canonized for their heroism, and their relatives get a small measure of comfort that they did something great before they died, but there might even be an ancillary financial windfall for everyone by turning United 93 into United 93.