United International flight 93 was the fourth, and final, plane hijacked by Muslim extremists on September 11 2001. But it was also the only plane that failed to hit its target, crashing in a Pennsylvanian field rather than obliterating the White House as the terrorists had intended.
Using information from the cockpit voice recorder, findings from the 9/11 Commission, and interviews with passengers' families, writer/director Paul “Bourne Supremacy” Greengrass attempts to explain exactly what happened on board in this utterly gripping real time docudrama.
In the States, trailers to “United 93” we’re met with wild cries of “Too soon!” by ill-informed audience members who felt that the victims were being exploited by studio execs looking to make a fast buck.
In reality, Greengrass’ stunningly detailed recreation is a fitting tribute to their bravery and sacrifice - a fact recognised by the families of the passengers who have given their full support to the project.
Gone are the grandiose speeches, big name stars and witty repartee that clutter up most Hollywood offerings. Instead, Greengrass uses a completely unknown cast (mixed with many of the actual air traffic control personnel involved in the tragedy), handheld cameras, and pared down dialogue that focuses on the mundane details of everyday life – even the famous “Let’s roll!” cry is portrayed as a mumbled aside.
The highlight of this competent bonus features package is a moving 60-minute featurette entitled “United 93 – The Families and the Film”.
We see the movie’s associate producer and several of the actors meeting the families behind United Airlines Flight 93, sharing their personal account of the events that changed their lives, and explaining why they were interested in supporting the making of the film.
Next is Greengrass’ enlightening talk-track which mixes insightful technical information (we hear how he often ran non-stop hour-long takes and that he preferred to use the people who were actually involved on the day rather than established actors) with more thorny issues such as why he decided now was the right time to tackle such a difficult subject.
The extras are completed by a series of detailed biographies offering biographical sketches of the victims on Flight 93.
The attention to detail in the airport towers, regional air traffic stations and military command rooms is strikingly authentic and injects the film with a terrifying sense of plausibility.
The result is an emotionally intense, gut-wrenching experience that stayed with this reviewer long after he left the cinema.
Staring: Christian Clemenson, Trish Gates, Polly Adams, Cheyenne Jackson, Opal Alladin, Ben Sliney
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Extras: Audio commentary from director Paul Greengrass, 'United 93 - The Families And The Film', Memorial Pages: passengers and crew of United Flight 93 are remembered with 40 written biographies