United 93 Review

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(A brief note to the readers of this post who aren't my English teacher: We watched United 93 over the course of three English lessons, with a substantial gap in between. This might affect my overall view of the film in some way, but I'll try to minimise that. When we finished watching it, my English teacher asked me to write a review on it, and so here it is.)

I decided to write this as a blog post for two main reasons: the first being it was set as a homework so I have to do it, but second realised that when I started this blog it was intended to mainly film reviews. I'm not entirely sure why I haven't posted many reviews, although my guess is that I usually see films at the cinema at the weekend, and so by the time I've got round to writing them school starts again for a whole week and I don't get the time.

But on to the real review.

United 93 is a film about 9/11, from the perspective of the people on the ground in Air Traffic Control, and the citizens on board United Airlines flight 93. In retrospect you could refer to it as "the only one of the four that didn't hit its target".

The problem with that statement is that it contradicts the perspective of the film entirely. United 93 is effectively a "fictional documentary" shot later with the blank wholes filled in; meaning that it was shot several years after the event itself, based off real events, with informed fiction to take the place of unknown events during that time.

All the events unfold in real-time, from the perspective of the people involved. This makes for a much more involved, tense, and absorbing film. The fact that it is likely that you probably already know how the film ends is made irrelevent by how well this is done. In terms of shooting style (the filmmaker in me coming out here), it was entirely hand-held, with no use of tripods or even steadicams. Barry Ackroyd also used a relatively slow shutter speed, one of about 1/50 (obeying the 180 degree shutter rule), to enhance the motion blur effectively.

Paul Greengrass also completely ignores rules like the 180 Degree Rule, again enforcing the idea that this is not a traditional film, but more of a first-person account from all the locations. This is further backed up by way some actors deliberatley walk between the camera and the subject, as if the camera was a person, jostling to get a good view of the radar screens or similar. What does detract from this slightly is the standard following of the Rule of Thirds, as the human eye tends to stay fairly still in situations like this, with the head moving to focus on the desired object, hence creating fairly centered framing.

The themes of this film center mainly around organised chaos, and the way that a few small people can effect the world in such a massive way. There was a total of 19 terrorists participating in the attacks, and togther they killed over 3000 people, injured over 6000, and directly effected 36,000.

Chaos was one of the terrorists' main weapons. They managed to remotely envoke fear and disorder at all the main Air Traffic Control rooms on the east coast, as well as the military and civil services. Nobody knew for certain which planes had been hijacked.And this in turn lead to another problem for the people on the ground - oversuspicion. Air Traffic Control in New York had a list of around 40, contianing only 3 of the 4 hijacked planes (the other one was United 93, that was only reported as a hijack 4 minutes after it had crashed). They could not take the much-needed action on the few planes that were in fact hijacked, because they had been over-suspicious, and so they were checking too many red herrings.

The second idea that a small few can affect the lives of so many is a theme present in much of moden life - for instance in 1997 Steve Jobs said:

"Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

In this case, the terrorists' different was not a good different (from the perspective of the western world) - it was "immoral", "disruptive" and sometimes "downright evil".

There were two proposed endings for the film; differing by only the text shown after the crash of the plane. In one of them the words were "America's War on Terror had begun" and the other was "Dedicated to all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2011". I strongly feel that the second is the most appropriate, as the film would not have been possible without the real events that unfolded on that day, and to that effect there should be an enormous amount of sensitivity regarding the real people that participated in those events. The first is also unappropiate because it suggests that events as bad as this would happen repeatedly and therefore would provide more material to make more films.

In the end they second ending was used, and I'm glad they did. There are not many things I would change about this film, possibly the only thing would be the framing in some of the shots, but that is very minor, and could be viewed as unimportant due to the style of the film.

All in all I thought this was an incredibly affecting film, realistic and powerful. I would heavily recommend it to anyone who appreciates this genre.

See you later bye.