United 93

Written and Directed by Paul Greengrass
On general release from 2nd June 2006

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I am always wary about seeing a film that has been massively hyped up, as has been the case with United 93. My caution was not misplaced. This film - directed by noted British documentary maker Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) - added little to an understanding of what took place on the morning of 11 September 2001.

United Airlines 93 - a Boeing 757 flying from New Jersey to Los Angeles - was hi-jacked by four Arabic terrorists. After forcing their way into the flight cockpit and murdering the two pilots, they somehow managed to switch the direction of the plane to Washington.

In what was a ludicrous scene, one of them attached a photograph of the White House to the steering wheel. This was presumably to remind him of what it looked like before he rammed the plane with all its human cargo into the building.

The sheer panic of a lot of the passengers as almost inevitable death drew closer was convincing to a degree, but I could not escape the fact that these were actors who were recreating what Greengrass speculated occurred in that traumatic space of time.

The film includes non-actors, people who were involved in various airport control towers when the four planes were hijacked almost simultaneously on 9/11, and it showed. This was particularly so when the staff at an airport in New York witnessed the two planes crashing into the twin towers. Their reaction was very understated - almost 'Oh gosh! They are two of our planes!'.

One eminent film critic spoke about United 93 being a fitting memorial to the passengers who averted the destruction of a national shrine. This may be so, but first and foremost they were trying to avert their own deaths.

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