Tuesday, September 11, 2012

United 93

United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006) "The War on Terror" turned the tide before it was even declared.  The efforts of the crew and passengers of United flight 93 insured that, as they assessed the situation quickly, made decisive plans and executed them unselfishly, in the process saving an unimaginable number of lives.  Who knows, besides the dishonored dead, what the target was?  We don't know.  We can't know.  But, after that, every airline passenger became more vigilant, and everybody who didn't put their seats in an upright position (or try to light their shoes) was seen with suspicion.  Anyone who attempted anything—short of hogging the overhead compartments, blocking the aisles in conversation, stealing somebody else's honey-nuts, or (god forbid) talking incessantly about themselves THE ENTIRE FLIGHT—against the common good, would be taken down and taken down hard, if not by security officers, then by the passengers themselves (and you had better luck with the security officers).  Flight 93 was when the terrorists started losing 55 minutes after the battles had begun.

Greengrass' ingenious attempt to recreate the events on 9-11 leading up to and during that horrific flight (in real time, one might add) crackles and pops with a cinema verite energy that makes the most mundane of the circumstances take on an ironic heft.  We all know how the story went-only if merely how it ends—and it makes all the participants victims and their every action and utterance weighted with irony, their moments, being finite, that much more important.  The dawning realization that their rudimentary transport had become part of an organized plot to turn their flight into a weapon of targetted destruction is both horrific and inspiring, moving fast through the stages of grief, they decide to make the best of the situation in which they suspected they would not survive, and acted unselfishly to at least stop any further loss of life wherever they were heading, and, maybe, doubtfully, save their own.  In an unfolding world of uncertainty, they acted for the greater good.  

It's an amazing story—civilians becoming warriors, victims not settling for that role.  And Greengrass' version is done without stars, no grand-standing, just the director's insistence on verisimilitude and energy, not enhancing the story with false heroics, but only the genuine ones, enhanced by its own choice not to editorialize.

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