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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fly On The Plane -- United 93

[Please only read this quasi-review after you've seen United 93 -- beware, spoilers applicable. This blogpost is also a repost from the one I wrote on IMDB, with more personalised commentary aimed towards my regular Sundries readers. Photos to follow later]

I'm literally minutes away from having seen the film, virtually running from the theatres, to an internet cafe nearby.

I wanted my thoughts to be fresh about the movie, before I could be influenced by reviews (which I didn't read, obviously).

First, let me say to anyone who believes this film is in any way exploitative -- it is not.

I am very impressed, shocked even, at how unsentimental the treatment of the passengers on board, was.

At no point, did director Paul Greengrass overemphasise the individuals of the film, although certainly we got glimpses of their lives, and their personalities.

I consider this point not just about the delicacy of trampling on surviving family members' emotions, since though there is half-a-decade of separation between the event and today, it is still an event anyone over the age of 8 in 2001, will remember with crystal clear recollection...

(In this, 9/11 is an hammerhead of emotion, stuck somewhere between Pearl Harbour, and the JFK assassination, in this nation's history -- one can feel the taut historical importance in this nation's memory, even if you're a foreigner)

...but the strong directorial decision, to emphasise the collective nature of these events.

Since there is no 'star'-actor to anchor this film, we get no exposition that isn't specifically aimed towards unravelling the story, a blessing of enormous proportions.

I am monumentally happy no single character gives a stronger acting performance than the other, since the continuity this gives the film, is that much more powerful.

-- A word about Christian Clemonson, whose broad, earnest face, gives his amazing portrayal of Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., a simple sincerity that hits you right in the gut.

It is obvious that if there is a hero amongst heroes in this story, it is he.

Again, instead of the usual star turn, this veteran of television injects just enough intensity into what could be a hyperbolic portrayal of vengeance, as the film's detractors would have it, that is. When you watch him in action, you suddenly start to remember people in your life, you have met throughout it, who act like him.

For me, it was a priest in Oxford I once knew, named Father Joe, who had served in World War II, and whose ruddy complexion with clear features, was in fact, not unlike Clemonson's...which is already similar to ex-baseball player, Mark McGwire.

These people exude purpose, genuineness, and integrity, beyond what anyone can possibly describe --

Perhaps many would have preferred individuals on the plane, and on the ground, to have been given more detailing, but thinking of the events of the day, to me this decision, is just and makes it more compellingly honest.

On 9/11, all of this nation, and indeed, the world, was rivetted by what was happening, at the moment.

At that moment, though individuals' lives were altered in their entireties, wives losing husbands, children mothers, friends other friends, that day was about a moment in time, which by its very universality, UNITED people (a strange pun on the meaning of the film, which reveals itself only after you see it -- it was indeed an UNITED 93, in every sense of the word).

By united, I don't mean that every single human being was against the tragedies which occured that day.

Alas, there are too many people in this world, who had their own inexpressively repulsive reasons to be gladdened by the events of 9/11.

But whether we all of us liked it or not, that day united all of us, as only the modern age can -- courtesy of mass communication.

What we saw that day, however, was left to our imaginations, which given the wealth of human ideas, hovered all over the place, and still do -- from conspiracy theories, to blame-the-victim mentality, to the sudden irrepressible desire, to inflict maximum pain, on whomever had done this.

This film attempts to give a picture to our thoughts, and though to be sure, as with any cinematic treatment, is personal to the scriptwriters, directors, and actors (amongst the scores of people in charge of a film), it has succeeded beyond what many of us could have hoped for.

Like so many reading this, no doubt, I love cinema verite, and this film, with its harsh angles, jolts and immediacy, offers a truly nervous ride alongside the passengers of United 93.

If I can offer any piece of advice, in case you decided to read this post and haven't watched the film anyway, is that you cannot leave the film even ONCE, because the intensity and storyline is such, that it is made to watched in one fell swoop.

Only 3-4 people in the sold-out audience of over 180 people (according to the box office), left to get snacks, go out to the loo, call on their mobiles, to my certain knowledge, since I was nearest the exit.

A few attempted a cheer, but the gravity of the moment was such, that their voices fell instantly silent.

This wasn't Rocky knocking out Drago.

This was real. These people were real.

Thankfully, this movie is as close to understanding that, and honouring it, as any survivor of these events can make them.


David Beamer's WSJ Op-Ed on United 93 (Via JSU)


  • I wonder if the seriousness of the film will hurt the number of people coming to see it. It saddens me to think a more exploitative film wound draw better, but that could be true.

    Some excellent posting lately, when you're not setting the kitchen on fire, Victoria!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Apr 29, 08:44:00 am GMT-4  

  • Glad that you were impressed with the movie! Movies are important in forming public opinion. We should never forget 9/11 and the many heroes who lost their lives that day.

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Sat Apr 29, 09:32:00 am GMT-4  

  • I wonder if the seriousness of the film will hurt the number of people coming to see it.

    Well, as mentioned, where I went in South Beach, our showing was completely sold out (180 seats taken, and I didn't see one seat available, as often happens in the very front).

    Two things make me rather concerned, though:

    A) The theatre didn't choose the biggest auditorium for, at least, this showing (maybe others, I don't know). Lots of folks walked in, and had to leave.

    When I queried the manager, he said that "RV" and other such stupidities were being shown in the largest capacity theatres.

    WHY? No response, other than, that's what they were told by head office.


    B) This is a very very anticipated movie, and yet, at least the three threatres I looked up, two AMCs and one Regal, had regular showings.

    That is, if it showed at 7:40, the next showing was at 10:20, not 8:15, etc. to meet moviegoer demand.

    WHY? No response.

    HMMMMMMMM. What gives here?

    I know it can't be because of profits, yet on the contrary, the three places I checked, seemed to be bending over backwards not to do more for the film.

    This could be out of good taste, so as not to exploitative.

    But it could be to reduce the box office take on opening week, the better to say it wasn't that popular?

    I wonder if they'll do this with Oliver Stone's film.

    It saddens me to think a more exploitative film wound draw better, but that could be true.

    You're very right.

    Without spoiling it too much, there is minimal violence on this film.

    In fact, it's a family film, with a few swear words, which are not that profuse or out-of-place.

    There is no clichéd storyline, there is no mega star like Nick Cage there, for you to distract your attention, there is no caricatured terrorist who loses in the end.

    This is not a Hollywoodesque movie.

    I was, and still am, shocked.

    Some excellent posting lately, when you're not setting the kitchen on fire, Victoria!

    Thanks, Ron!

    Next week, I shall be away from my computer for at least one day, so be aware that I'll post two in a row.

    Other than that, there are some intriguing blogposts coming up!

    I hope anyway. ;)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Apr 29, 01:41:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Glad that you were impressed with the movie!

    Impressed, yes.

    But more than that, Jose -- which I will update in the blogpost later.

    I underwent a cathartic experience.

    I confess, that I brought a slew of Kleenex in my handbag...and I didn't use one.

    It is not that kind of catharsis for me -- the cry your heart out, and get it all out.

    This was perhaps, deeper, more intellectual, more reflective.

    It was almost like a shot of iron into your system -- the better to get your red blood cells a boost of energy, resolve, and renewal.

    That's it. I feel renewed today.

    Movies are important in forming public opinion. We should never forget 9/11 and the many heroes who lost their lives that day.

    *waves American flag*

    As an aside, Jose, and this goes to Robert, Val, and Charlie too:

    Will you be watching Lost City this weekend? Or soon?

    I am going to watch Akeelah tonight, and tomorrow, Lost City.


    I like ex-Que Pasa USA alum, Andy Garcia, though.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Apr 29, 01:46:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Yes I am very much looking forward to seeing The Lost City!!! I hope it turns out to be a success in spite of Hollywood's obstacles. Hopefully you will do a review of it for your readers!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Sat Apr 29, 03:25:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I just got home from watching the movie. My reaction was similar to yours about being renewed.

    I think that the people who are seeing it, though, are the ones who would never forget that day even without this movie. There are a lot of people that need to see it to remind them of what we are up against. It looks as if some of them were marching in NYC today.

    Here in Columbus, it was shown in the large theater at the complex I was at, but there were probably only 50 people there. Of course, it was 3:30 on a Saturday. I checked and saw that 2 of the 4 showings remaining today are sold out.

    By Blogger Joyce, at Sat Apr 29, 06:29:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Life intervened, and I didn't get to see it until yesterday.

    I was disappointed. It was very "movie". (I think Althouse's son was quite right on that.) And the cliches were quite present, though I found one of them very funny (the appeasenik German).

    Also, they left out much interesting stuff, including the fact that the passengers actually took a vote on whether to act... Spontaneous social organization! Gotta love America.

    By Blogger JSU, at Mon May 08, 12:13:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I just saw the film and I was similarly energized. I'll call it righteous rage. We got to see the enemy. And now I hate the enemy.

    By Blogger Ruth Anne Adams, at Sun May 14, 04:33:00 pm GMT-4  

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