United 93

United 93 ★★★★★

I gave this movie a few years because I didn't think I could handle it when it released. Given my response to the later stages of this film, maybe I should have given it a few more years. I could understand, maybe, a more cynical reaction to the things that happen on the plane. It is a little on the weird side to dramatize such a tragic and recent event. But I don't detect any ill motives here. Paul Greengrass has showed an interest in process and semi-realistic drama, and both instincts serve him well so that even the rising score, which only comes in the last ten minutes or so, is used in such a way as to remind us that this actually happened, not to artificially heighten a situation. The biggest problem with this movie is actually that I didn't see it when it came out, so that by now a few of the actors on the plane have popped up in other things, including 30 Rock, which served to pull me out of the film for a tiny bit. That only happened, though, because almost everybody else was played by the real person who was in the real situation on the ground on 9/11. Instead of being a distraction, each and every one of these non-actors are able to channel the feelings they felt on that day and convey them onscreen. It's an astonishing gambit by Greengrass and one that pays giant dividends.

I was too young to get emotional about 9/11 when it happened. All I knew was that it was bad and my shows weren't happening because of it. Now, thanks to this film, I was able to experience a modicum of the feelings adults were feeling on that day. When the film switches over to the titular plane for the remainder of the running time, I was thrown into a situation I knew about but wasn't prepared to be immersed in. As such, the last 10 minutes or so, while the passengers were on phones with their loved ones until the end, I was watching through a lens of tears. It's a profoundly affecting film which achieves such power from playing everything entirely straight.