Thursday, 15 July 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 303

186 - United 93 - 5 stars
I was in Majorca coming in from a drunken night out when I turned on the TV and saw the footage of the World Trade Center. I sobered up pretty quickly. 5 years on from 9/11 and Hollywood was finally ready to visit the events of that tragic day and of all the films made about it, it was United 93 that did it with the most respect and taste.
Using unknown actors and improvised script, Paul Greengrass creates an intimate documentary feel that plays out in real time and doesn't resort to Hollywood cliches or attempts to manufacture and manipulate emotion. Yes, the trademark Greengrass shaky-cam is in full use here, but it adds to the sense of realism.
For added realism they managed to get the participation of several air traffic controllers and Ben Sliney who was the real person in charge of Air Traffic Control on 9/11 (his first day on the job) and the man who made the brave decision to ground all aircraft in the USA. I can't imagine what it must have been like for him to have to relive those feelings and emotions whilst filming this.
The first time I saw this film it was at The Belmont. I initially thought that we had got the reels in the wrong order because at one point the military are talking about finding planes that had already crashed. Then I realised that this was just an accurate representation of the total clusterf#ck of information being passed through department to department as nobody knew what was going on or how to deal with a situation like this.
At the end of the first screening I saw, everyone sat in silence for about a minute before one guy just exhaled slowly and I thought that reaction summed up the film. It is an exhausting experience. You know how it is going to end but during those final moments you are hoping and wishing that they can do something to change their fate.
I have never cried during a movie and through the course of this challenge I was hoping to find one that would. After seeing Toy Story 3 last week I might be softening in my old age because from the passsengers making their phone calls to their loved ones onward I did feel quite emotional. There was a lip quiver but no tears. The search continues.

Days remaining - 62 Films remaining - 68

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