Big question: Writer/director Paul Greengrass ("Bloody Sunday," "The Bourne Supremacy") chronicles in real time the events believed to have taken place on United Flight 93, when a passenger uprising made this the only 9/11 hijacked plane that didn't hit terrorists' intended target. The debate is on: Is it too soon?
Catch it: Between its depiction of passengers in the air and traffic control centers on the ground, "United 93" realistically renders 9/11 by recognizing the role of timing in prevention, attack and defense. It's a heartbreaking account of a security breach and act of terror so horrifying, we might not believe it onscreen if we didn't know it to be true.
Skip it if: You're not ready--or simply don't want--to watch it.
Bottom line: The tense, raw emotions Greengrass captures in "United 93" are not hysterics; they're the natural reactions of stunned air control officers, frustrated military officials and everyday citizens, making their last phone call home and then banding together. Whether this is essential viewing is up to you, but those who experience it--the word "watch" seems insufficient--will be riveted, unable to move a muscle until minutes after the plane hits ground. Rarely has it felt so powerful to witness humanity and bravery in action onscreen, and to not learn most characters'--people's--names until the end credits.
Bonus: "United 93" reiterates that, among the many ways film can function as a social tool, one of the most challenging and valuable is its ability to help us confront events we wish never happened--but certainly don't need a movie to remember.
Directed and written by Paul Greengrass; cinematography by Barry Ackroyd; edited by Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson; production design by Dominic Watkins; music by John Powell; produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin and Greengrass. A Universal Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:51. MPAA rating: R (for language, and some intense sequences of terror and violence).
Todd Beamer - David Alan Basche
Jeremy Glick - Peter Hermann
Ben Sliney - himself
Ahmed Al Haznawi - Omar Berdouni
Saeed Al Ghamdi - Lewis Alsamari
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