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PCR # 318  (Vol. 7, No. 17)  This edition is for the week of April 24--30, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"United 93"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Starring: Lewis Alsamari, JJ Johnson, Trish Gates and Ben Sliney
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 51 mins

As I write this it has been almost a full week since I saw "United 93." And it has taken me that long to write this because I have mixed emotions about the film. I have been to New York City several times. In fact, there was a great collectables store right near the World Trade Center that I used to frequent. I last visited the Big Apple 18 months ago. While there, my son and I went to Ground Zero and paid our respects to the innocent victims of 9/11. I thought about that visit before, during and after the film. Is it too soon for Hollywood to begin making films about the subject? How can you produce a film on 9/11 and not look like you're just trying to make a buck off of a great tragedy? And if you make that film, what kind of message will you send?

"United 93" is the story of the events that unfolded during what should have been a routine flight from Boston to the west coast on September 11, 2001. Of course, shortly after take off, the passengers on the plane, and later, the world, learned that what happened that day was anything but routine. Due to a flight delay, the passengers on flight 93 were able to learn about the other hijackings that occurred that morning and, in possibly the greatest example of courage I have ever heard of, attempted to take the plane back from the hijackers. Their efforts made sure that the plane did not hit it's target, assumed to be the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., saving the lives of untold numbers of people while making the ultimate sacrifice.

Filmed in an almost documentary style and in real time, "United 93" looks not only at the title flight, but at the overall events of the day, both good and bad. Director Greengrass, who made the brilliant "Bloody Sunday," very wisely chose not to cast established stars. In fact, he went in the opposite direction, managing to get some of the actual military and FAA personnel to play themselves in the film, which lends an even more real feel to the movie. Trish Gates, who plays one of the stewardesses on the flight, actually used to be a stewardess for United and in fact was working and in the air on 9/11. JJ Johnson, who plays the flight's captain, is a pilot. But the best work is turned in by Ben Sliney, who plays himself. September 11 was Sliney's first day on the job at the FAA flight center in Virginia and it was Sliney who made the unprecedented decision to ground all air traffic that morning. Using the emotions of these people, Greengrass has made a film that will leave you in stunned silence when it's over. While the overlying message is obviously courage, other conditions help shape the film, most notably chaos. There is no finger pointing here, but it is made obvious that miscommunication was rampant that day. Long after the first plane hit the tower, the FAA maintained that the flight was still in the air. When the decision was made to finally get some military help in the air, the planes were sent the wrong way. These were relatively small errors which were made larger by the events of the day. Not taking sides, Greengrass lets the film tell the story. When the hijackers pray to God for his help in carrying out their mission, the passengers pray as well, asking Him to protect them. The fact that each group relies on their faith almost provides two looks at the same story. Realizing the hijackers intentions and empowered by their faith and the emotions they shared with each other, the message I asked about earlier is indeed a strong one. To me, the film is a story about the resolve of a group of strangers that banded together in the most difficult of times to do what they knew in their hearts was right. And that is a message that needs to be delivered.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "United 93"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "United 93" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.