By Jess Lomas
December 18, 2013
Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. (Hey, whatever. It fits!) To celebrate Quickflix’s tenth birthday, we’re looking back on some of the most beloved films from the past decade!
Few films accelerate the heart rate like Paul Greengrass’ United 93, a real-time dramatisation of the hijacked flight on 9/11 that crashed in Pennsylvania. The picture starts by introducing the four terrorists who will board United Flight 93 en route from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco. After hijacking the plane and attempting to redirect it to Washington D.C., the passengers attempt to overthrow the men, preventing them from reaching their destination. On-the-plane footage is interspersed with scenes at ground control, offering a well-rounded portrait of the confusion the incident aroused all-round.
Hollywood has largely avoided translating the September 2011 terrorist attacks on American soil to the silver screen, despite over a decade passing since that fateful day. Some have tried unsuccessfully to tap into the raw emotion of the events that linger in so many minds, notably Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, which failed to garner overwhelming critical or box office acclaim. Then there are features such as Allen Coulter’s romance Remember Me, whose handling of the emotionally charged event is laughable, bordering on insulting.
United 93 stands tall above those, boasting a harrowing, nerve-wrenching plot complimented by strong and realistic performances. Despite its basis in reality, one’s former knowledge of events doesn’t hinder the viewing experience, and despite knowing the outcome, Greengrass maintains the tension throughout to an almost unbearable conclusion.
Greengrass, who both wrote and directed, lends a disclaimer: it is based on available evidence but it is a recreation. In spite of this, it is hard to separate what we see on screen and the panic we imagine occurred on that flight. Unknown actors add to the realism, as does utilising several notable individuals who play themselves, including Ben Sliney, national operations manager for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Impressively, the movie is not heavy-handed in favouring one party over the other, instead presenting itself more as an unbiased documentary-style narrative. It is this skilful storytelling that positions the film well next to actual documentaries about the terrorist events, leaving American patriotism at the door and using humanism to let the audience connect with the characters on screen.
United 93 is available on Quickflix.