United 93 was a cause for concern when first released to the public in the summer of 2006. Many wondered if director Paul Greengrass would be able to successfully portray the horrific events that took place on September 11, 2001, because those events were still so fresh in our minds. Yet, the film turned out to be quite a success. Critics praise the film for the ingenious cast, none of whom are big players in Hollywood, allowing for the audience to relate to the reality of the day. Most reviews are positive about the way in which the film seems to flow in accordance with the events of the day, and how the characters seem to express such real emotion as the terrorists attack the plane. Some critics were worried about the way in which Greengrass would be able to re-create these events, while at the same time not stirring bad emotions from the audience. But they all agree that the film successfully portrays the strong-willed nature of the passengers aboard the plane, stirring a sense of honor and pride for the viewing audience. The authenticity of the timing of the film as the events happened on this day made the film much more successful in the eyes of critics. Overall, critics acclaimed Greengrass for re-creating such a ghastly day in history into a film that compels the audience to keep watching.
- Biancolli, Amy. Rev. of United 93, dir. Paul Greengrass. Houston Chronicle 28 April 2006. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/movies/reviews/3784088.html
- "Amid the search for survivors following 9/11, writers and artists mounted their own search for a response. Some wondered what could be written, or sung, or painted, or filmed that might capture the devastation and meaning of the day. Most wondered when. A few wondered whether." Biancolli's review praises Greengrass as a viable director to tell such tragedies, and she cites his past work with a similar topic in his 2002 film Bloody Sunday.
- Corliss, Richard. "Let's Roll! Inside the Making of United 93" Time 9 April 2006. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1181637-1,00.html
- Corliss touches on a variety of aspects about the movie United 93, such as the way in which the characters played the role of the passengers aboard the plane but at the end of the day could go back to their usual lives and continue to live. Although he mentions that this movie caused some turmoil in the media for something that is so recent for some Americans to see, he emphasizes the importance of the reality of the events and the struggle of the passengers to live. The intense research which Greengrass used in creating this movie is articulate, and he is able to hold the attention of the audience the entire time. Corliss writes how the actors in the movie were a large part in re-creating the reality of the event because they held similar roles as the actual people. He says the film is "as honorable and artful as a re-creation of history, and as a film experience it's both unbearable and unmissable." The review discounts any negative feedback on the film, highly accentuating the fact that it is a tribute to the sacrifice of the passengers and definitely a message to remember the horrible events that happened on this day.
- Dargis, Manohla "Defiance under Fire: Paul Greengrass's Harrowing ‘United 93.'" New York Times 28 April 2006. http://movies.nytimes.com/2006/04/28/movies/28unit.html
- This positive review explains the way in which Greengrass successfully shows the audience what may have happened aboard the plane that went down near Shanksville, PA. Dargis praises the way in which the camera is able to constantly go back and forth between the actual plane and the events on ground with the air traffic control center. Moreover, the way in which Greengrass chose such an average cast and showed them all going about their usual business before the plane took off shows to us the reality of the dreadful day. The review praises how Greengrass presented all of the characters aboard the plane as being individuals, ones where no one person took on a star role at the time. As much as the review praises the way in which the movie was created, it also questions the motive behind why this movie was actually created. The reviewer states that she "didn't need a studio movie to remind me of the humanity of the thousands who were murdered that day or the thousands who have died in the wars waged in their name. That's one reason why the arguments about whether it's too soon for a film about the attack rings hollow and seriously off the point." The reviewer agrees that the film was a thriller to watch but is unsure of the point of it, and whether it is something audiences will enjoy because of the disaster and harm that resulted from September 11.
- Denby, David. "Last Impressions." New Yorker 1 May 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/05/01/060501crci_cinema
- Paul Greengrass does a superb job of re-creating the actual events the happened on the devastating morning on September 11, 2001. Denby praises the way in which he so closely portrays the actual feelings of those on board the flight and allows for the audience to see what probably happened at the time. He compares this movie with others, such as War of the Worlds, saying they are "guaranteed to cause a lump in our throats" while United 93 holds the emotions of the audience "in the pit of the stomach." Greengrass uses the camera innovatively to portray the wide range of tense feelings and emotions that were being felt in so many places in the United States. The film starts out slower, but as the actual events of the day start to occur, "the editing becomes quicker, the language grows more terse and peremptory, and we begin to pick up details in a flash, out of a corner of the camera's eye." Greengrass did not add anything to this film to make it more pleasing to the audience. Instead, he used the actual events of what happened to the United Flight 93 on this day to re-tell the story of innocent lives lost.
- Ebert, Roger. Rev. of United 93, dir. Paul Greengrass. Chicago Sun-Times 28 April 2006. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060427/REVIEWS/60419006
- Ebert breaks out the big thumbs and accompanies his trademark celebratory hand gesture with 4 stars. He argues that the film shouldn't have any opposition for activists that feel that its release came too soon after the 9/11 tragedies. In defense of his opinion he states that the films "present tense" nature makes it a story unaware of any passage in time. Ebert praises Greengrass for staying away from big name actors. He proposes that portrayal of the characters in such an accurate real-life manner puts the viewer right there in a seat, and no additional knowledge about the passengers is known other than what one would be able to infer had they also just boarded the plane.
- Hornaday, Anne. "Raw Courage." Washington Post 28 April 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/27/AR2006042702390.html
- Interestingly, this review questions in the first two paragraphs why one would want to see a movie that re-counts the horrible events that took place on September 11, 2001. Hornaday compares Greengrass's United 93 with his previous one Bloody Sunday, stating, "he tells the story of a day that changed the world simply by starting at the beginning." This is an interesting comment to make because the audience becomes familiar with the terrorists as they wake up before seeing anyone else in the film. This allows for us to notice them and watch them as the day unfolds. United 93 easily switches back and forth between the United 93 plane and the Air Traffic Control Centers around the world, showing the audience how tensions unravel as the events of the day begin to happen. Hornaday ends her review with a comment that clearly sums up the emotions of most audiences who are drawn to see this horrible, yet wonderfully done creation: "United 93 is a great movie, and I hated every minute of it."
- Norris, Michelle. "Playing a Despised Terrorist: 'United 93'." All Things Considered (NPR)3 May 2006.
- Interviews actor Omar Berdouni.
- O'Connell, Sean. "United 93." FilmCritic.com 2006. http://www.filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/reviews/United-93
- This review highly praises the work of Paul Greengrass and his representation of the events that happened on September 11. Although no one will ever know what happened aboard the plane that day, O' Connell speculates that the film creates the closest re-enactment to what actually did go on. He comments on the way in which the last minutes of the movie occur exactly in the same minutes as it did on this terrible day. The way in which Greengrass shows the screen going black as the plane hits the ground after an attempt of the passengers to save themselves adds to the terror and anger that the audience will feel as they view it. O'Connell praises the way in which the film "dutifully remembers those that acted heroically that day, both on the ground and in the air." He addresses how the film pays tribute to those that acted in honor to save themselves and others on September 11th. He calls it paying a "tribute to the Americans that gave their lives that day in the name of freedom."
- Puig, Claudia. "Wrenching ‘United 93' is harrowing in its realism." USA Today 24 April 2006. http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/reviews/2006-04-24-united-93_x.htm
- Puig directs her comments toward the entrancing way in which Greengrass portrays the actual events in United 93. She addresses the way in which the audience was able to understand what had most likely happened aboard the flight, although none of us were actually there. She writes about how he used the events happening in the real time in which they occurred, which added to the audience being more involved because we can vividly remember that day. The cast has no big stars, adding "to the sense that we are watching real people fight for their lives." Moreover, the idea of including some of the actual people in the cast helped to add a whole new dimension of realism that is often hard to do in important, historical events. Although watching this type of film was probably very uncomfortable for the audience of today, seeing the terrified emotions and strong actions against the terrorists, Greengrass is able to compel each of us to continue watching and always remember the unfortunate flight these people were on.
- Rea, Steven. "‘United 93' is powerfully real." Philadelphia Inquirer 28 April 2006: W03.
- Rea addresses the actions of the people who were present at the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He talks about the way in which the film powerfully re-creates this horrific day in a "wrenching chronicle of an everyday airplane ride that goes frighteningly awry near Shanksville, PA." Done in documentary fashion, the film captures the chaos and failures that occurred on this day. Rea comments on the way in which the film successfully uses the government, the air traffic control centers, and the military officials in order to smoothly show the communication failures that resulted in major problems for the United 93 flight. He praises Greengrass's ability to show the way in which the passengers and flight attendants were calmly acting before the plane was hi-jacked and then their attempt to save the plane from going down by trying to attack the cockpit. The passengers were shown in a respective light throughout the film in their attempt at heroic actions. Moreover, Rea addresses how the hi-jackers are portrayed as "something more than cutout jihadist madmen." He comments on the way in which the four men were seen reciting the Lord's Prayer before they committed their crime, making the audience wonder if they were really bad men at all, or just fulfilling what they believed to be the Lord's command for them. The review praises the way in which Greengrass so successfully was able to re-create the movie in real time for the last thirty minutes.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa. "United 93." Entertainment Weekly 19 April 2006. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1184987,00.html
- Schwarzbaum praises the film for the way in which it allows the audience to re-live the tragic day of September 11th and allows them to be thankful for their own lives. She calls the film "a drama about the most politically charged crisis of our time that grants the dignity of autonomy to every soul involved." She comments on the way in which the average characters in the movie showed the normality of the day in a way that more deeply affected the audience. The idea of Greengrass being able to successfully portray all of the events leading up to the crash of United 93 is something Schwarzbaum praises, also. How he is able to unfold all of the events to make it true to the actual day makes the movie more invigorating for the audience and a thriller to watch. She states: "The final struggle takes only a few minutes, but it feels like an eternity, a blur of action, the deadly outcome of which cannot be changed by wishing it otherwise." She ends the review stating that while there is not a need to see the movie, it is important to see the way in which those who died aboard United flight 93 are, indeed, not different from us in any way.
- Travers, Peters. "United 93." Rolling Stone 18 May 2006: 232. http://ezproxy.lib.lehigh.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1040942321&sid=5&Fmt=3&clientId=3005&RQT=309&VName=PQD
- Travers calls United 93 "a monumental achievement that stands above any film this year." He talks about how audience tended to shun the film because it is too hard to watch the innocent lives of those passengers aboard being so viciously taken from them. However, he goes on to comment that the fact that the actors were not well known made the film seem more real to the audience. Travers praises the role of Ben Sliney in the film, who had his first day as the chief of the air traffic control on the morning of September 11, 2001. Travers comments on the way in which Greengrass successfully portrays the characters on the plane and the way in which the chaos allowed for the courage of certain individuals to be shown. The high respect that Greengrass showed for the passengers made it an inspirational film. He comments, when talking about the role of the passengers on the plane that day, that "What matters to Greengrass is their collective intent." This review praises the way in which Greengrass identified the passengers as heroes on this never-forgotten horrific day.
Burkeman, Oliver. "The Day they Hijacked America." The Guardian 28 April 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2006/apr/28/1
Rosenbaum, Ron. "Hijacking the Hijacking: The Problem with the United 93 Films." Slate 27 April 2006. http://www.slate.com/id/2140676/