Tuesday, May 30, 2006

United 93

Last Wednesday I saw United 93. (This post will contain SPOILERS but unless you've been living under a rock for the last five years, I'm going to assume you're aware of the story.) As we're all aware United 93 took off from Newark Airport with San Francisco as its intended destination, but crashed in a field outside of Pittsburgh.

United 93 was probably the best movie I saw this year. It would have been a great movie if it was a work of fiction, but sadly it wasn't.

The movie takes place in a few air traffic control rooms across the country (and NORAD) and on the plane. Many of the characters in the movie actually played themselves, including FAA manager Ben Sliney, who was actually on his first day on the job. The fact that so many of the people played themselves adds to the tension.

The movie starts a little slowly, but builds up quickly as we hear of a possible hijacking. In hindsight it's amazing that almost everyone blew off any possibility of a hijacking, but we have to remember that no plane had been hijacked in 40 years.

They lose the plane and then realize one of the towers was hit. Although CNN reported that a small plane hit the tower, Sliney realized that only something big could have made a hole that size.

But things really pick up after a second plane is lost. We see it fall off radar and then in NY they see it over the Verrazano. Someone remarks that it's coming in really fast, and then next thing we know it slams into the other tower. Complete silence. Everyone just stands there in amazement, with absolutely nothing to say.

Back on United 93, the terrorists start to get antsy until one finally takes the initiative and starts the hijacking. The terrorists take over the plane, but passengers call home and realize the plane isn't going back to the airport. They decide to attack the cockpit, and in the movie, they get there. But the terrorists crash the plane before they can gain control.

The ten or so minutes where they attack is one of the best sequences I've ever seen. You spend the whole time hoping -- praying -- that they get there in time, but as fate had it, they don't. We see the plane go down, but not the crash and explosion, which would have been tacky.

Instead the screen goes completely black and silent. And during that time you could have heard a pin drop in the theater. I've never seen complete silence like that before and hopefully will never see it again.

Some people claim this movie shouldn't have been made yet. It's too early, they claim. That's precisely the point. This movie is meaningful precisely because it's so close to the event. It reminds us of emotions and feelings we had only a few years ago and teaches us the true meaning of heroism. Movies like this remind us why we must fight against evil, for evil will not just leave us alone.

No comments: