United 93 Paul Greengrass

Rarely is a director’s commentary as moving as the film itself. But with subject matter as sensitive as this, writer/director Paul Greengrass effectively communicates why this film had to be made now and why certain aesthetic choices were picked to avoid sanitisation or speculation at all costs. On the issue of how much violence and terror he felt he should show, he relates the story of a victim's family member, who told him: "There’s nothing you can do in this film that can match the images I have in my mind and will have forever. But I want you to show everyone else what must have happened that day.” Family members play a large role in the hour-long documentary that accompanies the film, which almost unnecessarily takes great pains to point out how much they all co-operated with the process. This means plenty of scenes of the actors awkwardly meeting the passengers' families, including one brunch with family, friends and teachers, who unearth eerily prescient adolescent poetry about plane crashes. What should be emotional footage is subdued somewhat when one of the family members is inexplicably interviewed on a moving golf cart. As for the film, the story is told in real time divided between civilian air traffic control, military defence and the "events” on the flight. Based largely on the 9/11 Commission Report, we learn that had the plane not been delayed for 15 minutes on the ground, the passengers would have had no way of knowing about the fates of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, would likely not have clued into their flight’s suicide mission and therefore would not have tried to overtake them. Because they did, the plane was the only one that day that didn’t reach its destination. Greengrass acutely points out that the passengers of United 93 were the first citizens to grapple with a post 9/11 world, forced to ask themselves questions about what we should all do next, questions that we now all ask ourselves every day. In detailing the communication breakdowns that happened along the way, the film effectively portrays how little anyone knew about the magnitude of the operation in the hour-and-a-half it took to play out and spares us any 20/20 hindsight by painfully reminding us the incredulity we all felt that day. (Universal)