Movie review: United 93

Closed Thread
  1. #1

    Movie review: United 93

    United 93

    Movie review
    by Andrew W Scott
    17 October 2006

    Andrew’s rating: 7.5 out of 10
    Year of movie: 2006
    Director: Paul Greengrass
    Actors: unknown actors intentionally used by Greengrass

    United 93 is the story of the only hijacked flight on September 11, 2001 that did not reach the target intend by the terrorists. The movie is told chronologically in a no-nonsense documentary style, essentially in real-time. It begins that with the early morning boarding of the 37 passengers (including the four terrorists), the five flight attendants and the two pilots. What appears to be a routine Tuesday morning flight is about to become anything but routine.

    The flight departs Newark in New York bound for San Francisco 41 minutes late at 8:42am, long after the American Airlines flight 11 was hijacked and only three minutes before that flight smashed in the north tower of the World Trade Centre. United 93’s delay means that passengers learn of the other terrorist attacks that morning during heart-wrenching phone calls with their loved ones on the ground. Correctly concluding that their hijackers are indeed on a suicide mission, the agonising decision is made to fight back in an attempt to retake the plane, despite the terrorists being armed with knives and insisting they have a bomb on board.

    I was totally absorbed by United 93. It is a fitting tribute to those 40 ordinary people who found themselves in a most extraordinary situation. I especially liked the movie’s realistic and documentary style. It consists of the ordinary and mundane, and then the most extraordinary and dramatic, with almost nothing in between. It does not intend to make heroes of the passengers or over-dramatise the events. Those events are dramatic enough without resorting to cinematographic tools such as special effects or over-the-top music.

    The actors’ performances were very genuine and not stylised at all. One can easily identify with the passengers, as Greengrass intentionally used unknown actors who could be any of us. Even the terrorists are portrayed as ordinary and vulnerable human beings, although they are undoubtedly doing a terribly evil and wrong thing. The scenes at the various air traffic controls around the country, the military bunker at the White House and even the fighter pilots that were scrambled to intercept the plane could easily have slipped into stereotypes, but they did not. They just showed how confused everyone was on that day.

    The theme of the ordinary and extraordinary continues with the two main locations of the movie: the extraordinary location of the flight in the air, with frantic and desperate passengers making calls to their loved ones one the ground in very ordinary settings, such as in a kitchen with young kids making the noises and playing the games that young kids do. Another marked contrast in the film is the terror inside the plane and the beautiful sunny weather and clear day outside it.

    I found just one of the phone calls between the air and the ground a little drawn-out, and I have some issues with the realism of the very ending of the film, but these are personal matters and I will leave it up to you to decide on those issues for yourself.

    For me United 93 was more engrossing than entertaining, but given the subject matter that is to be expected. This most controversial of subjects is handled in a very believable and fair way and leaves the viewer saddened by the events but uplifted by the passengers’ response to those events. It is a tale of the amazing self-preservation instinct that most of us possess, and what ordinary people can bring themselves do in order to try to survive.

    7.5 out of 10.

    Disclosure: Andrew writes reviews for

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2003

    Andrew .. you've given me some motivation to get workin on www.DVDs.Org .... been lying idle since 1998.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by KnowItAll:
    Andrew .. you've given me some motivation to get workin on www.DVDs.Org .... been lying idle since 1998.
    Happy to write reviews for you!

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2005

    Any idea what altitude the plane was at when the mobile phone calls were made?

  5. #5

    Judging by the movie various altitudes from cruising altitude at FL350 (that's 35,000 feet to you ) all the way down to almost zero altitude.

    I know this is the subject of much conjecture. I express no opinion on it because I simply don't know. But these make for interesting reading:

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Kennedy Town

    PANTS....big smelly PANTS

    (KIA - I'll do reviews too if you like ; )

    I know the story is an emotive one but crikey what a cliche-fest

    I'm sure ppl had wives/mothers/babies etc but I started finding it amusing that everytime the guy phoned home, there was another babe-in-arms or sick grandmother or some other way to tug at the heart strings. I think they milked this aspect for me and it made it seem like a cheesy day-time film. Should've left more to the imagination and let the audience understand the horror of that flight rather than spoon feeding it to us. Just read wot I wrote, a bit harsh maybe. 5/10

    OK - what will review next?

  7. #7

    The next film to be reviewed will be The Constant Gardener. You can expect that review by the end of the week.