Saturday, April 29, 2006

United 93: A Respectful Tribute

Watching United 93 last night was a lot different than I thought it would be. It was different in a good way, though, and I stick to my pre-conceived idea that everyone should see this film.

I think I may be one of the "lucky" ones who, having already seen the made-for-tv, "The Flight That Fought Back," was more prepared to consume the information put up on the big screen. The tv version of the movie focused much more on the personal relationships and individual lives of the passengers and those they left behind. In that way, it was a much, much more difficult film to stomach, emotionally.

United 93, comparatively, is a film that puts the emphasis on historical story telling, and sticks to the matter-of-fact events of that day. While I don't think there was a dry eye in the theatre last night, it was not because the film's director made any attempt whatsoever to get an emotional rise out of the audience.

The audience cried because, frankly, the facts alone are enough to make anyone with a beating heart shed some tears.

I also think there was something about the movie theatre experience that really affects you when you watch the movie. Sitting in those rows, next to strangers, it didn't feel all that different to sitting down on a plane, and the feeling that you're on board United 93 is hard to shake. There were more than a few times I felt myself looking at the people next to me in disbelief or denial.

What's so difficult about this movie is knowing the ending. You find yourself saying, "Lock the door!" as though some how things could have turned out differently. And you're trapped in the knowledge that you can't say when it's over, "Well it was just a movie."

The fact that there are no familiar Hollywood faces in the film only adds to the realization that it could have been your dad or sister or husband on that plane. And watching the group band together as they plan their attack, you want them to win, and you begin to feel like they were your brothers. And you hope that the ending will change.

If there's anything United 93 does, it won't necessarily "bring back the memories of 9/11" in the way you think. What it will do is show you what happened behind the scenes and just how unprepared we were to deal with the events of that day. You will see the pandemonium that occurred and how difficult it was to track the 4,200 planes that were in the air that morning.

Mostly, you will be smacked across the face with the reality that these terrorists do not want to kill American soldiers, they want to kill American citizens. And you will see the dedication they have when it comes to completing their task.

If that doesn't shake you up at least a little bit, well then I don't know what will.

Lastly, I think the movie is a fine tribute to the brave Americans on that flight who knew what they were facing and decided to fight back. Watching the film makes you proud to know they did not go quietly. There's something heart wrenchingly beautiful about that.

****Potential Spoiler****

Yeah, I know everyone ultimately knows the end of this story, but between the tv version and United 93 there was some room for speculation, and I have to admit I much preferred the ending put forth in the movie.

The passengers are shown attacking and killing two of the terrorists, and I have to say, watching that made me feel relieved. I wanted those terrorists to suffer, and my boyfriend, who accompanied me to the movie agreed that there was some sort of "Kill those bastards!" sentiment that welled in him, too.

In the end, it's a small comfort. But for some biting reason, I hope it's the truth.


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