It’s always hard to discuss a tragic real-world event, and it’s harder still to make a movie about one. Of course, lots of true life disasters have made their way to the big screen, often with mixed results, but for my generation there is one event (or date, rather) that is at the forefront of our minds when we think of tragedy – 9/11.
The 13th anniversary has just passed by and as usual the television channels were flooded with news coverage, tributes, documentaries... and movies. Despite the world thinking that making a film about the events of that September morning was in bad taste, we got a few anyway, proving that studios didn’t believe the subject was to lie in a perpetual state of ‘too soon’. And despite still getting emotional when I think about what I saw that day, I’m glad films were made about it.
I have watched World Trade Center, but only once. It may be difficult to lay negative criticism at the feet of a movie that’s about such a sensitive subject but I didn’t really enjoy it, and with an IMDb score of only six out of ten I can assume I’m not alone. United 93 is a much stronger project.
At 111 minutes it’s a fairly standard length for a movie, but the genius behind it is the way it builds and maintains tension; you could even say you are tense from the second it begins. Inevitability is the movie’s strongest asset; we all know what happens before we’ve even read the synopsis and yet we don’t get bored. This knowledge fuels our apprehension and it pays off big time; the final 15 or so minutes are some of the most emotionally devastating I have ever seen.
From the chaos that engulfs authorities on the ground to the tight, personal affairs aboard the doomed plane, we see everything that happened that day through the eyes and ears of people who were there. There are no big stars, no names lit up in lights on the poster, but everyone puts in an incredible shift. They’re not actors, they’re people to me and that makes it all the more compelling. It’s a horrifically saddening story, but one that is told here with such respect that it gives the characters dignity whilst still delivering the thrills expecting from a Paul Greengrass movie.