Sunday, April 30, 2006

United 93 – WOW!

I went to see United 93 today, and must say, WOW! While the story line was, of course, very depressing, the movie was really well done. It never broke down into wild speculation, spectacular special effects, or over dramatization. Instead, it compiles what we do know into a cohesive timeline of the events of September 11th.

First off, 75% of the movie did not take place on the airplane, but instead we were watching events unfold either at FAA headquarters, at Boston Air Traffic Control, or in a military headquarters in the DC. On the plane, we hear little of the small talk and see only a bit of the events; the majority of what we see are the various phone conversations and that knowledge being passed around the passengers.

Unfortunately, one of the shortcomings of the movie was that it didn’t label the specific offices we were watching, perhaps to protect the guilty, but it wasn’t hard to figure out who was who. And by focusing on the offices and the phone calls, the movie stuck to the data that could be verified, and avoided the speculations many feared. Only the final scene, filmed in dream-sequence, was speculation.  

The movie really focused on the lack of leadership and coordination between the various players during the crisis. At first, there was a general disbelief that a hijacking had occurred, as no one had seen one for so many years.  But once they came to the realization that a hijacking even might have occurred, coordinating the offices to minimize the scope of the tragedy was impossible.

The movie seemed to assign most of the blame to the military. The first half of the movie both the FAA and air traffic control looked for the military, unsuccessfully to attempt to get some support in the growing crisis, but the military in both locations were not at their posts.  When the military finally showed up, they were unprepared for the situation, with only four fighter planes in the vicinity, and a lack of a direct chain of command.

Certainly, there was some blame for the FAA and Air Traffic control, primarily linked with their inability to believe that a real event was occurring.  The movie showed how, if they had believed one of a few warning signs, either group would probably not have let United 93 ever take off, which I believe is the real reason for the title.  And some criticism was reserved for President Bush, who was unavailable to give the go command to take down United flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.

Yes, the movie speculated about the events on United 93 that led up to the crash in Shanksville, PA.  But really, it was not about Flight 93 or the potentially heroic acts that prevented that flight reaching its target, the White House. Instead, it was about the series of events that allowed September 11th becoming a tragedy of such epic proportions. I thought it was very well done, and look forward to seeing it again.

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Posted by Scottage at 12:49 AM / | |