Friday, April 28, 2006


United 93


I know it's going to sound strange to say this, but, Roger Ebert is one of my favorite writers. So, when I wanted to read about United 93, I turned to him. Here's an excerpt of his review:


It is not too soon for "United 93," because it is not a film that knows any time has passed since 9/11. The entire story, every detail, is told in the present tense. We know what they know when they know it, and nothing else. Nothing about Al Qaeda, nothing about Osama bin Laden, nothing about Afghanistan or Iraq, only events as they unfold. This is a masterful and heartbreaking film, and it does honor to the memory of the victims.

The director, Paul Greengrass, makes a deliberate effort to stay away from recognizable actors, and there is no attempt to portray the passengers or terrorists as people with histories. In most movies about doomed voyages, we meet a few key characters we'll be following: The newlyweds, the granny, the businessman, the man with a secret. Here there's none of that. What we know about the passengers on United 93 is exactly what we would know if we had been on the plane and sitting across from them: nothing, except for a few details of personal appearance.

There has been much discussion of the movie's trailer, and no wonder. It pieces together moments from "United 93" to make it seem more conventional, more like a thriller. Dialogue that seems absolutely realistic in context sounds, in the trailer, like sound bites and punch lines. To watch the trailer is to sense the movie that Greengrass did not make. To watch "United 93" is to be confronted with the grim chaotic reality of that autumn day in 2001. The movie is deeply disturbing, and some people may have to leave the theater. But it would have been much more disturbing if Greengrass had made it in a conventional way.

He does not exploit, he draws no conclusions, he points no fingers, he avoids "human interest" and "personal dramas" and just simply watches. The movie's point of view reminds me of the angels in "Wings of Desire." They see what people do and they are saddened, but they cannot intervene.


Now, that sounds like exactly the movie I would have wanted them to make.

Read the rest.