I might have to do a few blog posts on the film United 93, as I’m of many minds about it. One unequivocal take: this movie was made perfectly, and its timing was personally reasonable. I was admittedly a little bugged out by the whole concept of it, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been made and released now. That being said, most people would do perfectly well to skip it.
This is the first time I can recall crying at all during a movie. Even during the title screens of the production companies, the silence was stirring, and I was on edge and fidgeting through the first half of the film. That was uncomfortable enough. As soon as the second plane hit the World Trade Center though (a view no different than the one shown on TV that day; I’d seen this footage dozens of times), I started to lose it. My eyes teared up, and which kept happening throughout the rest of the film. The death of real people affected me far more than I could have imagined.
There are a lot of reasons for it. One is the connection to history itself. I was in New York on September 11, getting off the subway at about 9:15am in Union Square after voting in primaries for the city election. A man who collected money for a homeless organization, UHO (in my head, I called him "Randall," though I never knew his real name), told me that two planes flew really low just overhead and emergency vehicles kept coming through. Heading to University Place, I could see the Towers on fire, smoke billowing, the top halves of the buildings clearly visible two miles south. I then headed to eMarketer, my employer at the time, at 821 Broadway on 12th St. Two weeks later, I was supposed to attend a conference at Windows on the World, the top-floor World Trade Center restaurant. I received an e-mail after the planes hit the Towers but before the Towers’ implosion that the event was canceled, and I remember thinking that was ludicrous. The damage didn’t look that bad. Why scrap plans so soon?
My obliviousness to what was happening is well mirrored in the film. No one had a sense of the gravity of the situation. It’s nothing short of miraculous that the passengers on the plane with their vague reports from loved ones watching CNN had a much greater appreciation of what was happening than any official in the military, aviation, or anywhere else monitoring the situation with all their tracking devices, recordings, news footage, and presumably the most sophisticated technology available anywhere.
Another aspect that might have hit home more personally is that in 2001, I wasn’t traveling much – maybe one plane trip a year. Now, it’s an average of twice a month, mostly for business. In the past five weeks, it averaged more like a flight a week – Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, West Palm Beach, San Francisco. I see the passengers on their phones thinking this is going to be just another flight. They don’t know they’re part of a scheme of events that will affect the history of our civilization. Identifying with those anonymous people – I couldn’t tell you the name of a single character in the film (though the movie’s website helps shed more light) – gives this movie pertinence like few others can have. It is very, very real.
More thoughts coming. Share yours in the comments.