14 May 2006

Thoughts on United 93

I went to see United 93, recently premeired at the Tribeca Film Festival, Friday night at the Lincoln Square AMC Loews 12 Theatre, where the trailer for the movie provoked protest some months ago, pulled by the Theatre, saying that "[we] don’t think people are ready for this."

I sat in the back of the half filled theatre, scanning the advertisment slideshow, and then the previews, and felt somewhat uneasy watching "If you see one movie this summer...." promotions, knowing what was to follow. Once the movie started, the theatre became unnaturally silent, with the usual chit chat nonexistent.

The film itself gripped me, even though I knew what was coming. The one thing that kept jumping out at me was that, among the government/military officials shown, no one wanted to make the "wrong" decision, and so they were paralyzed by inaction. Over and over, rules of engagement were asked for. Fighters were scrambled to cover Manhattan or Washington, but what could they do? Can we shoot down a civilian aircraft? Who is authorized to give this order?

The passengers adjusted to this new reality, that a hijacked plane wouldn't be flown to Cuba or Egypt and a ransom or release of political prisoners demanded, that rather the plane itself would become the weapon.

I think this is a fair, and an important, film. I was discouraged by the sparse attendance at the theatre, that people were quite happy to shell out $10.75 for Mission Impossible III, but few wanted to see this film. Yet this film will be remembered long after M.I. III is in the discount bin at Walmart, this film and the event it remembers and honors.