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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

United 93 (2006)


Staying right here on the ground and not moving.

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. Three of them reached their targets. This is the story of the fourth that didn’t and the people that made that possible.

It’s been just a bit over a decade since that fateful day where more civilians were killed than any other day in history, ever. It’s something that we Americans are still hurting from but is also something that has made us stronger as a country. I know that I don’t usually get all this patriotic and loving like I am right here, but I’ll be damned if this film didn’t make me feel a little bit sentimental towards the country I live in!

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Anyway, enough of that, because while I do realize that this movie is definitely centered towards those who can remember that day, where they were at, and exactly how they were affected, I have to make a note that it is still a move nonetheless. Meaning, it can be viewed by many, regardless of what country they lie in. I bring this fact up because it’s so strange to see a director like Paul Greengrass (somebody who resides from England) tackle such a controversial subject/event such as this. And don’t forget people, this movie came out nearly five years after the attacks and if anybody who lived during the year 2006 will tell you: We as a country still weren’t willing to get over it. Add that to the fact that Greengrass’ track-record up to that point was good, but mind you, this was when people already got a helping of what he could do with the Bourne Supremacy, where people already knew he loved to shake that camera all over the place.

Hey, look! It's that dude who sings on Broadway!

Hey, look! It’s that dude who sings on Broadway!

So yeah, you could say that it was a pretty daring move on everybody’s parts involved to not only make this movie when they did, but to make it in general, with the lad behind it all.

Somehow though, I couldn’t imagine anyone else directing this. There’s something about Greengrass’ down-to-Earth direction that really gives you the impression that not only is this happening in real time, but that it’s literally happening right in front of your own very eyes. It feels, looks, and sounds exactly like a documentary, and because of that, it just looks, feels, and sounds real. Which is basically saying that it’s a terrifying experience to watch, because even though you know what’s going to happen in the end, you can’t help but get swept up in it all and root for the passengers, yet, at the same time, still can’t lose that sense of dread that sooner or later, it’s all going to end and these passengers are going to perish.

As morbid as it may sound to write or read, it’s the truth and that’s why this movie hit me so hard. Because rather than trying to go for some sort of political-agenda and say who was in the right, the wrong, or indifferent when it came to this situation, on this very day, Greengrass just stands behind the camera and films how it probably would have happened. He’s not offering any “rah-rah” patriotism about how these passengers all acted on the plane when they found out what was really happening, but rather, showing us what can happen when a band of practically strangers get together, figure out what predicament they’re in, and how they can get out of it. Which yes, sounds totally different when you think in the grand scheme of things, what was going on outside of this one aircraft, but when you’re watching this movie, you’re not really thinking about everything else that’s going on in the Big Apple and how the rest of the world is reacting to it – you’re simply thinking about how these passengers are going to get off of this plane and survive, if that’s at all possible.

Which, yet again, is a strange feeling to have, especially when you consider that you know how it ends. If you don’t, then I suggest you read more.

And that’s why, despite him having some bad-press surrounding his name and his “crack-cam”, Greengrass truly was the perfect choice to direct a movie such as this. He not only knows how to ramp-up the tension so well, that you practically forget about the actual, real-life ending itself, but he also reminds us that even the smallest gesture of humanity and bravery can matter. Like I said before, he’s not necessarily commending everybody involved and their actions, but he’s just shining a camera-light on what may, or may not, have happened and how certain people reacted to this specific situation they were tragically thrown into.

That’s what brings me to my next point and how this daring this film truly was. See, it’s one thing to portray an event in the history of the world that happened to, and was felt by numerous people from all over the globe. However, it’s another thing to portray an event in history that has a few specific amount of people involved, and to portray them, their stories leading up to, and during this event, is definitely a ballsy move. Not just because you have to worry about who you offend, or who you don’t, but because this movie right here is their legacy; if you’re bad-mouthing them and people know about it, then you, my sir, may have something of a lawsuit on your hands, not to mention many, many years of angry fan-mail pouring in by the thousands.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn't set anybody off.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn’t set anybody off.

But once again, Greengrass proved me wrong and showed that he can take any drastic steps he wants, he always comes out on top. In the case of the characters here in this movie, nobody’s really all that famous or well-known to the point of where one could say, “Oh, that guy was in that episode of Seinfeld!” And even if you could, it probably wouldn’t get in the way of being able to accept this “character” for who they are and what they resemble. Greengrass clearly did the bit of casting in which he got a whole slew of unfamiliar faces and names, just so that it would be so much easier for us, the audience, to not get distracted by seeing a famous person, play a character; especially not a character who is supposed to be based on someone who actually existed.

Nobody here is really outstanding in terms of acting and to be honest, even after all of these years, nobody’s really all that recognizable either (with the exception of Cheyenne Jackson and a blank-a-few-times-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance from Olivia Thirlby), which is good. In fact, it totally works in the movie’s favor. It makes you see each and everyone of these “characters” as who they’re supposed to be: Real-life, actual people that, sadly, were thrown into such a tragic situation as this. It makes you wonder about what they had to go through and how, even when it all ended, their families were affected. But no matter what, the movie reminds us that it’s because of these people and their bravery, that some lives were changed. For both better and for worse. But most of all, they changed history and had us remember that regular, everyday human beings, just like you or I, can change history by just getting up and not taking something we don’t believe in. Even if the end game doesn’t look so pretty.

But hey, that’s just what being humans all about: Making decisions, regardless of if they end well or not. You just want to help and save others, if that’s at all possible.

Consensus: Though it had everything to lose by simply just being made in the first place, United 93 turns out to be not just an effective piece of film-making, but a compelling and emotional look inside the lives of those who were on this one specific airplane, on this one fateful day.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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11 responses to “United 93 (2006)

  1. angie chui September 11, 2014 at 3:37 am

    I really liked this movie — the sense of urgency and the realism in the presentation. It was a well executed tribute to the brave passengers of United 93. The fact that they didn’t use A listers for the film was also a great call so audiences were not distracted by their celebrity. Great review, as per usual Dan 😀

  2. The Celtic Predator September 11, 2014 at 3:59 am

    9/11 is scarred in my memory and this movie really hit home for me — it always will. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better or more appropriate film for this, and as it turned out Greengrass was the perfect choice like you said. If I had to pick my favorite movie “about” America, it would be this, hands down.

    Great review.

  3. killkenny16 September 11, 2014 at 4:10 am

    Great review, man! You’ve piqued my interest in the film, although going solely by the title, I had thought this was a documentary about the Manchester United soccer team. Boy, was that ever stupid of me.

  4. le0pard13 September 11, 2014 at 4:37 am

    A hard film to watch, but indeed an important one. Fine review, my friend.

  5. thomasjford September 11, 2014 at 7:41 am

    I think there were two 9/11 films out around the same time and I can’t remember which one of them I watched, but I’m pretty sure it was this one. Good film, but I do remember thinking at the time, bit soon maybe?!!

  6. Gene September 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Yeah, I definitely got chills watching this. I think the event it was depicting had as much to do with that as any level of quality in acting or suspense or any of that. Sort of goes beyond viewing it from those perspectives and quickly becomes very personal. Nice review, Dan.

  7. Three Rows Back September 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Wow, what a movie. The ending to this still lingers in the memory. Great review.

  8. Kristin September 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Great review, Dan. I remember seeing this in theaters and being blown away by it. Looking back, it’s so true how it was a VERY gutsy move by Greengrass to make this movie. I also agree that it worked in his favor to pick non-famous-y actors for it.

  9. movierob September 18, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    what an amazing movie. I made sure to go see this in the theater the day it came out and was shaking for a while afterwards because of the impact it had on me.

    They did such a great job with this and it was very smart to not use actors we’d recognize because THATS what this movie is about; the everyman, not the big name actor.

    Greengrass definitely deserved this being his first best director nomination.

    it’s unfortunate that it didnt even get a best picture nom because it was clearly the MOST powerful movie of 2006, and in some ways even better than The Departed

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