The Mystery Of United Airlines Flight 93

The Mystery Of United Airlines Flight 93

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Release date: October 2nd, 2006
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 91 minutes

Writer and director: Paul Greengrass
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin
Composer: John Powell

Cast: Khalid Abdalla, Opal Alladin, Lewis Alsamari, David Alan Basche, Richard Bekins, Starla Benford, Omar Berdouni, Susan Blommaert, Christian Clemenson, Liza Colon-Zayas

United 93 is one of several films that were made in the few years after the events of September 11th, 2001. Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, and as its title suggests, it focuses on the one plane that didn’t reach its target.

Unlike the television movie, Flight 93 (2006) and docudrama, The Flight That Fought Back (2005), United 93 gives us a closer look at what was going on in the air traffic control room and at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), starting with Flight 11 being hijacked and flown into the North Tower and through to the moment when jets were finally scrambled to assist the distressed Boeing 757.

United 93

While Greengrass draws from the information covered in the 9/11 Commission Report, he also shows us things which might not have happened but help to add drama to the story. These details, as far as I can tell, are minor, for example, Ziad Jarrah telephoning his German girlfriend to say “Ich liebe dich, Ich liebe dich (I love you, I love you)”.

It’s told in real time with the cameras cutting back and forth throughout conveying a feeling of realism throughout, similar to what saw with his previous films, The Bourne Identity (2002) and its follow-up The Bourne Supremacy (2004).

United 93

As NORAD’s war game commences, it turns out to be one of the factors in why the military’s response was so laxed at a time when America was at its most vulnerable. We also see controllers desperately trying to alert people but getting no response.

Meanwhile NORAD seem to be fully aware of the hijackings but reluctant to act on the news they’re receiving on CNN, their normal operating procedures apparently suspended, but for what reason? That’s the multi-trillion dollar question isn’t it?

United 93

With Greengrass addressing NORAD’s stand-down and criticising the (non)responses by the FAA and NSA, United 93 tells us something the mainstream media was – and still is – all too eager to sweep under the rug.

The story of the plane that never reached its target is one of heroism, a crew and forty passengers fought back to regain control and in doing so prevented the loss of thousands more lives, but they lost theirs in the process. It’s not the complete story though, as Greengrass has shown. He says:

United 93

“9/11 was unique – the most important event of our lifetime, casting a shadow over all our futures. It’s vital for cinema to begin the task of exploring what it meant, and what it continues to mean today. Hopefully Flight 93 will be a worthy contribution to that process.”

Whether or not United 93 was the one actual flight that was intercepted by scrambled jets or brought down by passengers or the hijackers, or a combination of those, the details of what really happened on September 11th may never be known to us. It’s up to us as the ones left behind to keep asking those questions, if only to understand how we got here today.

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