Thursday, January 21, 2010

#9. United 93

(2006) ...Dir. Paul Greengrass

Some people are able to watch films and detach themselves completely from the subject matter. They just observe the images and sounds, see how they're put together, and decide if the movie works or doesn't work. Me? I'm not very good at that.

So when United 93 opened in April 2006, I made a conscious decision to avoid it. Not because I was disinterested, but because I felt that dramatizing a 9/11 storyline would be a serious mistake. The most likely result of recreating a horrific scenario--the inflicted wound still fresh, no less--would be a cheapening of the lives lost. And, oh yeah, 9/11 was totally fucked. I had absolutely no intention of revisiting that day, only to risk seeing the whole gut-wrenching (yet somehow sacred) event disgraced by an ill-made film. Such was my line of thinking. So I skipped it.

The film eventually left theatres, of course, but I kept hearing about it. Kept hearing that instead of feeling cheap, the film possessed an almost unbelievable realness; a disarming authenticity. As more and more overheard feedback continued to erode my rational reason for ignoring the film (i.e., that it was inevitably doomed to fail), I began to realize that I was just being a coward. I, like many Americans, simply wanted to push the story of United 93 from my mind. I wanted to pretend that it had nothing to do with me and just leave it to history.

Not being one to casually accept behaving like a complete pussy, I checked United 93 out from the library, invited over my homey Jason Ryan, and we sat in silence for the next 111 minutes as a perfect film played on the television. United 93 had to be perfect. It had to feel real. And Paul Greengrass (an Englishman, interestingly) nailed it. He gave the United States the single best narrative film about the single most horrifyingly jarring event in our country's history.

I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of the American public still hasn't seen this film. And I think that's due primarily to the fact that the vast majority of Americans can't bear to face 9/11 again. I can appreciate that. I avoided seeing this film for the very same reason. But I was wrong.

United 93 is required viewing. I don't mean required for film fans, I mean required for EVERYONE. See it.

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