Thursday, March 30, 2006

"United 93": Let's Roll or I'll Never Go?

The title refers to the first theatrical movie based upon the events of September 11th, specifically the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the plane diverted from whatever the hijackers' original target by Todd Beamer and the other passengers, the "Let's Roll" plane.

This past January there was, on the A&E network, a made-for-TV movie called Flight 93. I didn't watch it and I don't know what it's quality was. According to one news story I found this evening, it was intriguing enough to 5.9 million viewers--the largest single event audience in the history of the A&E network.

United 93 is a big budget Hollywood film. It's coming out on April 28. It's directed by Paul Greengrass, who directed Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy. According to Jack Thunder--who pays more attention to movies beyond the Spiderman sequels--Greengrass is a competent director who knows how to make a good movie.

That is what, I (and others) think, is part of the problem. Greengrass does know what he's doing, which makes United 93 harder to simply dismiss and ignore. It would be a whole lot easier to turn away in disgust from the commercialization of this subject if someone like Joel Schumacher was the director. But Greengrass is competent and might be able to present a retelling of the events on the plane without making it too overtly jingoistic.

It is much easier to disregard the upcoming Oliver Stone 9/11 movie World Trade Center because Stone has made a reputation of tackling historical movies with his own controversial spin.

I haven't seen anything other then the brief trailer for United 93 (nor do I plan on seeing anything more), but if you choose to follow that link I think you will see what I mean. The trailer is very matter-of-fact; it suggests a movie that presents a clear-cut story. There is no Hollywood heroics and stirring tag lines. Todd Beamer doesn't stand up and say "Let's Roll" like Harrison Ford so famously intoned "Get off my plane." Can the movie simply present the story and let it be? (I am worried, however, about the website design that shows the plane flying over the Statue of Liberty and towards the burning Twin Towers, when it was no where near [I'm correct on this right?] those places.)

But the larger question is, of course, should the film be made? I won't say that it should never be made. Someday, someone, would choose to present the story. But it's not even six year later (Has it even been that long?) and I don't care that "a portion of the box office proceeds will be donated to the Flight 93 National Memorial." I just am uncomfortable with trying to tell this story at this time; I personally think this is too soon. Someday the events on that plane will be something less than current events and something more than mere history. But we will have, for better or for worse, gained some distance and (possibly) some perspective on the events and actions of that day.

Jack T. suggested in a related email that United 93 might be this year's Passion of the Christ, a film that helps motivate the political base and draws a line between those who believe (whatever) and those who don't believe (that whatever . . . or maybe believe something else). I'll let him more accurately outline his thoughts/concerns if he so chooses.

Mostly I just want to point out my own distaste and queasiness regarding the film. If you have opinions, feel free to comment.

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