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Films >> United 93 (2006) >>

1) It is not too soon for United 93, because it is not a film that knows any time has passed since 9/11. The entire story, every detail, is told in the present tense. We know what they know when they know it, and nothing else. Nothing about Al Qaeda, nothing about Osama bin Laden, nothing about Afghanistan or Iraq, only events as they unfold. (Roger Ebert)

2) Using hand-held cameras and shooting in real time, [Greengrass] captures the staggering horror of that ninety-one-minute flight and how courage emerged from chaos. (Peter Travers)

3) To his great credit, British writer-director Paul Greengrass knows this, and keeps a cataclysmic story scaled to the vulnerable men and women involved. The result is a movie experience that's undeniably agonizing — but also unexpectedly bracing in ways I couldn't have prepared for. (Lisa Schwarzbaum)

4) Commentators in favor of the film as memorial advocated that United 93 was atypical of Hollywood filmmaking. David Alan Basche, an actor who portrayed a Flight 93 passenger, said of the film, ‘‘I’d call this a moment when Hollywood meets integrity. Those are two words you don’t usually hear in the same sentence.’’ (John Jordan)

5) Movies need to address the way the world is. We have to tell stories about 9/11. (Paul Greengrass)

6) Joel Siegel (2006) pointed out, ‘‘You’ll notice that there’s no musical swells, and no pregnant pauses punctuating the dialogue. That would make it a movie.’’ (John Jordan)

7) Quite remarkably, though, its clear-eyed view of an unprecedented American tragedy leaves us with emotions that audiences of those earlier days would readily recognize -- love of country, bottomless grief, an appreciation of life's preciousness and fragility. A film that can do this and also teach is to be cherished. And seen. It's time. (Wall Street Journal)

8) A New York Times critic admitted that writing about United 93 ‘‘as a movie, as an entertainment, becomes difficult’’ (Dargis, 2006).’s film critic confessed, ‘‘Watching this expertly made film about the events of 9/11 was the most excruciating moviegoing experience of my life,’’ and said that she ‘‘walked out of ‘United 93’ feeling bereft and despondent.’’ Time called the film ‘‘unbearable and unmissable’’ (Corliss, 2006, p. 71), while another review deemed the film ‘‘[e]xcellent but unbearable’’ (Matthews, 2006, p. 49). A Washington Post critic offered equally ambivalent praise, reporting, ‘‘‘United 93’ is a great movie, and I hated every minute of it’’ (Hornaday, 2006, p. C1). Some reactions were expressed as physical assault. One critic described the film as ‘‘a cinematic punch to the gut’’ (Kleinschrodt, 2006, p. 30), while others considered it ‘‘a stark, wrenching, and overwhelming viewing experience’’ (Smith, 2006, p. 25), and ‘‘undeniably the most gut-wrenching and captivating film released this year’’ (Puig, 2006, p. D1). ABC’s Joel Siegel (2006) reported, ‘‘A great film that’s hard to recommend,’’ adding, ‘‘It’s not easy to watch . . . and it’s sure to make my ‘Ten Best’ this year.’’ (John Jordan)

9) Mr. Greengrass has worked hard to honor the victims, as has the studio releasing the film. The whole production has arrived in a hush of solemnity; the notes given to the press even include biographies of the crew and passengers, some by family members. (Manohla Dargis)

10) The majority opinion seemed to be encapsulated in a phrase which multiple critics used to describe the film: ‘‘the feelbad movie of the year’’ (Dargis, 2006). The praise for United 93 was abundant, but so was the sentiment that the film is ‘‘likely to be the best film nobody wants to see’’ (Butler, 2006). (John Jordan)

11) But if we're to endure the unimaginable realities of Sept. 11, 2001, retrofitted into a two-hour Hollywood movie, this is the way to do it. (Ty Burr)

12) The difference between 9/11, when many Americans sat glued to their seats by terrifying images of destruction about which they could do nothing, and the film, which required an equally passive observation of the tragedy, was that this time the audience’s act of witnessing was characterized as courageous, and the reaction promised to be personally edifying because it was intentional and purposeful. (John Jordan)

13) But if you’re a family whose lives have been destroyed, changed forever irrevocably, you rage against that. You refuse to accept the victim-hood. You demand to be heard, you demand that we, untouched by it, address the core questions – why has this happened and what are we going to do? (Paul Greengrass)

14) The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. (Osama bin Laden, on what he believes to be the fatwa, published in the Arabic language newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi 23 February 1998)

15) The promise made by these commentators was that witnessing the tragedy in the relative safety of a movie theater provided readers with a sense of optimism otherwise missing from the public memory of 9/11. United 93, the reviews explained, could not change what happened to the passengers, but it could positively change the lives of those who watched their story. (John Jordan)

16) A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America — with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could. (George W. Bush, Address to the Nation, September 11, 2001)

17) I’ve said it many times before – when I’ve made films in Northern Ireland – if you want to understand some of the deeper truths around political violence, go and talk to people. Truly, go and talk to people whose lives have been destroyed by it. That’s when you really get to the heart of it. And if you spend time with the Bloody Sunday families, with the Omagh families, with the United 93 families, the extraordinary thing is that you find very little thirst for revenge. Occasionally, you find little pockets of it, but it’s marked by its absence. (Paul Greengrass)

18) It seems to me it's really a triple failure of airport security, of intelligence and it demonstrates that for all the talk about homeland defense, it shows how little we've really done about it. (James Traverton, former vice chair of the National Intelligence Center)

19) It's easier said than done. We did not get the intelligence information needed to predict that this was about to happen, to be aware of this kind of event coming our way. (Secretary of State Colin Powell)

20) Take this harrowing, historic flight -- but grab a tissue. (Thelma Adams)

21) [Greengrass] does not exploit, he draws no conclusions, he points no fingers, he avoids human interest and personal dramas and just simply watches. (Roger Ebert)

22) In New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, theater patrons shouted ‘‘Too soon!’’ after seeing the trailer, and made tearful complaints to theater management about being confronted with images of 9/11 that were ‘‘literally stunning.’’ Responding to the complaints, a theater manager in New York City temporarily pulled the trailer, reasoning, ‘‘I don’t think people are ready for this.’’ A USA Today /Gallup poll published on the day the film opened seemingly confirmed the manager’s decision, with 60 percent of the respondents saying they did not want to see the film. Despite several favorable reviews, the vocal support of Flight 93 family members, and a prominent premiere at New York’s Tribeca film festival, speculation continued to swirl around the appropriateness of 9/11 getting the ‘‘Hollywood treatment." United 93 ’s notoriety was cemented when, a mere six weeks after it opened, Entertainment Weekly declared it the sixteenth most controversial movie of all time. (John Jordan)

23) Painstakingly researched from reports of flight recordings, air traffic controllers and aviation officials, as well as cell phone calls made to family members by some of the passengers, it is undeniably the most gut-wrenching and captivating film released this year. (Claudia Puig)

24) Yes, depictions of 9/11 still dredge up emotions that are difficult to bear. But the process of framing and reframing the tragedy is vital to our healing. We will relive 9/11 anyway, in our nightmares. The best defense is to face it head-on. (David Edelstein)

25) To his credit, he avoids politics altogether, focusing instead on the tick-tock of how reality slowly dawned on an improbably gorgeous late summer morning. United 93 may be the best movie I ever hated. (Ann Hornaday)

26) This is a film that wrings you out completely, makes you feel you have lived the story along with the participants. Up to a point. (Kenneth Turan)

27) That always interested me because it was the last plane that took off – it took off late by chance because of the air traffic control delays. It always seemed to me that those 40 passengers were the first people to inhabit our world – the world of: “What are we going to do? What can we do and what will be the consequences of what we do?” (Paul Greengrass)