Tuesday, April 25, 2006

United 93, the Movie: Would You Watch It?

Last week's Time magazine carried Richard Corliss' report on the soon-to-be released movie United 93, about the fourth plane hijacked on September 11, 2001 - one that was intended as a missile as the other three hijacked planes were used that day, but the one in which the passangers heroically foiled the hijackers' plans. The plane eventually crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The only fatalities resulting from that plane crash were all on that plane.

The movie, written and directed by Paul Greengrass, sports the following plot line: "A real time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot."

It has a cast of virtual unknowns, most of them with real-life experience of the parts they play in the movie.

For example, according to the Time magazine report, "J.J. Johnson, who plays the captain of Flight 93, is a real United pilot. Trish Gates, who plays head flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw, was a real United flight attendant, Ben Sliney, national operations manager for the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration]...appears as himself. Lewis Alsamari, who plays one of the hijackers, spent a year in the Iraqi army."

All this seems to point to one thing: the production team has gone through considerable effort to make the movie as faithful to the real thing as possible.

Which leaves me with the question, do I want to watch this movie?

I haven't even been able to bring myself to watch the movie's trailer yet. One of the major reasons for this, I think, is that I know exactly what is going to happen in this movie. From the minute the movie starts, from the time the doors of the plane are closed shut, I know that it is building up to the horrific ending, no matter what transpires in between, no matter how heroic the passengers were, no matter that the terrorists did not succeed in their plan, no matter that the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of people on the ground were spared because of what this movie will show me happened on that plane that day.

Part of it also has to do with what we went through that day, although it is next to nothing compared to what the passengers on United Flight 93 put themselves through or what the passengers on the other planes and the victims on the ground and their families must have gone through.

For all the utter confusion we all went through that day, it is a day whose events I can remember and recount with clarity, more than four years after it happened. It was a day that brought home the meaning of "foreboding". I watched the second plane ram into one of the twin towers on live TV, heard the third crash into the Pentagon eight miles away from my home on northern Virginia, and had my husband be stuck for more than three hours in the one of the most poorly managed evacuations from Washington, D.C.

To add to the confusion was the fact that there was no information forthcoming from any part of the administration. TV anchors were merely echoing my thoughts - what more could they do? They had as much information as I did; we were all watching live footage of our sense of safety, security and comfort in our chosen way of life unraveling. Two of my neighbors perished in the Pentagon and many came home shaken, unable to eat for days. For months after 9/11 we had to drive past a wounded, blackened and bruised Pentagon on our way to Washington, D.C.

I am not sure when, or if, I will bring myself to watch it.

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish echoes this sentiment.
And yet, I will not see this movie, whatever its merits. The trauma is still too close. That day is still etched in me, as in all of us. It was a specific, unique trauma for those heroes on the plane; but it was also an emotional devastation for anyone who loves this country.
He goes on to say something more that raises the question, is it too early for a Hollywood representation (no matter how closely it tracks the real-life events) of 9/11?
In some ways, I regard the acts of those men and women to be an almost sacred moment in the history of America and of freedom. And sometimes, the sacred is best respected through silence. Sometimes, the greatest deeds, like the most monstrous acts, are best left unrepresented. They stand alone. They demand to be left alone. One day, commemmorate. But do not so swiftly represent. Shakespeare often left the greatest moments in his plays off-stage. They have more power there.
United 93 is slated for release in the US on April 28, 2006.

Crossposted on Desicritics.


pavan kumar said...

uh oh, It must have been traumatic when the 2nd crash was so near to your house (was your son at home?).

on other thoughts, this movie might appeal more to the Americans esp those whose families serve the defense

pavan kumar said...

oh and sorry but couldnt stop pointing: the Desipundit link sends me to photobucket, plz correct the link :)

Sujatha Bagal said...

Pavan, my son was as the baby sitter's and I couldn't go get him because the car my husband drove was in the garage for maintenance that day and he'd driven in mine. Definitely added to the sense of not having control.

Thanks for pointing me to the wayward link. I've fixed it.

Anonymous said...

I do echo your thoughts. Even sitting awake all night watching it on CNN was so horrorsome that I can imagine how someone in the middle of it all would have felt. Reminds of a dialog in the closing scene of Titanic movie when the guy says he plans to pull up the wreck of the ship, the old lady says "It should remain where it is. For thats where it belongs", and drops her pendant into the sea..

The idea behind hollywood-izing the whole thing is solely because it SELLS. The world watches when media broadcasts something sensational, but in the midst of it all, the thought behind the reality and the people who were at stake takes a backseat for a while.. and that is a sad part.

Anonymous said...

what do u say about this???


This and That said...

I cannot get myself to go see this movie. I guess for the families they defend the movie by saying we must remember these courageous people. I agree, but honestly can any of us forget that day. It is my generations Kennedy assasination. We will all remember where we were when the planes hit the WTC and Pentagon and the field in PA. As far as the cast being from real life...not too sure about that fact One of my ex boyfriends has a main role in it and he is an actor in LA.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Kishore, thank you for your comment and for pointing to the Titanic parallel. It is sad, isn't it.

Anon, what is the link about?

T & T, that's exactly what I said in my originial post on 9/11 - it's our generation's Kennedy assassination. About the cast, I think the Time article mentioned a the ones that were drawn from real life. Of course, it would have been tough to tap every single one from real life.

About the cast,

Sourin Rao said...

Good point that you make about the emotional scars that remain for that grotesque day on Sep 11th, 2001. We will never forget what we were doing when we heard the news, or how we heard that news on that fateful day.

But watch it I would, because every scrap of information that we get on the lives of these people, makes them that much more real in our minds. When PBS brodcasted that miniseries about WTC and the stories of the firemen and survivors, I was glued. Some people did superhuman feats on that day to save lives from the crumbling towers. Thats what happened on UA93 as well, and we could use some real life heroes in this day and age of cynicism.

I, for one, cant wait for the release on DVD.

Thanks for sharing your account of the unfolding of the events on that day.


Naresh said...

I fail to see the argument that its too soon, too traumatic to watch the movie. I too, remember the Day vividly. Living about 10 miles northeast of Pentagon, I can understand Sujatha's comments about the raw nature of that day.

There are several instances of art imitating life where you know the end even before the beginning - all those World war movies for example. For veterans of that war, I'm sure some wounds never healed. Making movies about those events does not in any way, demean their experiences. If potrayed with historical accuracy, these movies can serve as useful reminders for a long time!

Too traumatic? Sure, it was. And it still is for many. So is the AIDS epidemic. But movies like Longtime Companion, And the band played on, and Philadelphia were made. They have had a significant impact on how we even look at the subject today.

At the risk of sounding flippant, I would add that terrorist attacks like 9-11 seem to have a less traumatic impact on the Indian psyche. How many people remember the Bombay bombings today - or even the more recent Delhi bombings?

Long story short: I hope to see the movie United 93 soon - this weekend perhaps.

PS: I stumbled on to this blog when I was reading an article about the riots following Annavaru's death. Good to see a Bangalore-Washington-Bangalore voice. Mine's a Bangalore-Washington variety!

PPS: Shameless self-promotion: My blog .

Anonymous said...

comparing the AIDS epidemic and the Hollywood movies that followed to this event and movie is bizarre...think a little more about it....

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sourin, point taken. Please do let me know how you found the movie.

Naresh, welcome to my blog. Thank you for your comment and hi to a [fellow] Washingtonian. :)

My point is that the WW II movies portray something that happened a generation ago. Plus, wars and epidemics don't carry the same import as a terrorist attack. Wars and epidemics build up in the human mind, you have time to assess what's going on, to prepare for dealing with it. No one had the luxury with 9/11.

Anon, thank you for your comment. I agree that the two are apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

I really think that the movie United 93 was made wrongfully and of poor taste. Sure it was tragic and it is a day that we as Americans will never forget but to make a movie of the events that unraviled on that plane was so wrong. There was no one on that plane that survived and that is tragic but that only says to us that no one really knows what happened on that plane because no one was there.