Anybody reading this is essentially already in the choir and being preached to, but still… if you haven’t already seen it, go see “United 93”.
The realism of the movie makes it look like a documentary, but with the rich depth of visual detail that comes with a full studio production. When you see the air traffic controllers, the military personnel, the flight attendants, and the doomed passengers, you say to yourself, “Yes, this is what it was like. These are real people.” No sleek Hollywood models for the stewardesses. No handsome hunks and babes with cleavage for the passengers. No popeyed screaming Nicholas Cage lookalikes for the air traffic controllers. Just ordinary, homely, fat, stressed-out Americans, doing their jobs or sitting on a plane.
And then there are the four sweaty Middle-Eastern-looking fellows speaking Arabic and casting sidelong glances at each other.
The violence is there, but discreetly portrayed. There is profanity, but only at the normal level expected of people under the circumstances. And a raw, stomach-wrenching tension runs throughout the whole film, even though we know how it ends, in that debris-strewn crater in the Pennsylvania countryside.
But the crater and the black mushroom cloud never appear in the movie: it ends at the same time as the lives of the passengers. After the last frantic rush towards the green field, the screen goes black, and the credits roll.
And then comes the big surprise (at least for me – I had deliberately avoided finding out anything about the movie, so that I could see it without any preconceptions other than my memory of what happened that day). One of the reasons for the convincing verisimilitude is that many of the air traffic controllers and military people are played by themselves. Of particular note is Ben Sliney, the supervisor of the National Air Traffic Control Center in Herndon, whose performance anchors most of the ground segments of the film. Check out the IMDB list for the rest. Every Flight 93 passenger and crew member (and also each terrorist) is listed in the credits by name.
One other important thing: the movie breaks the Great Taboo and shows the second plane hitting the tower. You see it just the way the air traffic control and military people saw it that day: on the live feed from CNN, up on the big screen.
It will help you remember why we fight.