Monday, September 22, 2008

REVIEW: United 93

United 93

Year: 2006
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: J.J. Johnson, Gary Commock, Christian Clemenson, Trish Gates, Cheyenne Jackson
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA: Rated R

When I first saw the trailer for United 93 from Universal Pictures, It felt alittle unsettling. I mean do we honestly need a film about one of America's most disastrous event ever? But still, the trailer did look very interesting and somewhat tempting to watch. The film made over $80 million worldwide at the box office on a mear budget of only $18 million. Which to me is pretty impressive especially for a film like this. It was also widely acclaimed as one of the years best films by my critics around the world. I wasn't able to watch United 93 while it was showing in theaters. It wasn't because I didn't want to, its just that I simply forgot about it. It wasn't until yesterday that I finally took the plunge and saw the film. Why it took me all these months is beyond me.

Plot Outline:
On September 11, 2001, four young Arabians prepared themselves for hijacking United Flight 93. The same day, America witnessed three attacks, as one plane destroyed the Pentagon and two others, destroyed both towers of the World Trade Center. The FAA and Military are unprepared for this and battle to deal with the situation. A delay of United 93 allows the passengers to learn of the attacks, which leads them to believe that they too are part of a hijacking and must stop the terrorists in order to saves thousands of lives.

Its plot is very straight forward and is easily predictable, but so what. Almost any film you see based on 9/11 is going to end in a way in which you already know and United 93 isn't any different. The story of United 93 is very powerful. Its gut wrenching, provocative and deeply emotional. This isn't a film you can see every day and laugh about it. Its nicely paced and very impressive. The last 20 minutes of the film is simply breathtaking and will almost leave you in a burst of tears. What really surprised me about director Paul Greengrass, is that he really took this film with open arms and treated it with absolute care. Greengrass and his research team have done an amazing job on gathering information for this film. Almost everyone who's lost a loved one on the real United 93 airline have provided Greengrass with detailed background about their loved ones, down to the clothes they wore, what reading materials or music they had with them and what sort of candy they might have snacked on aboard the plane. Not only that, but director Greengrass has went with an almost unknown choice of cast members. We actually have real pilots playing pilots and real stuartists playing stuartists. That's really impressive and just goes to show you how Greengrass has treated this film with the up most care.

The casting for the film is really a strange one. I have not seen or heard of anyone from the cast and yet they were all fantastic. Their isn't one person that really stands out above the rest. J.J. Johnson plays as Captain Jason Dahl and he does a great job at it. His character is just acting like he should on a normal day and I think he did a wonderful job here. Gary Commock plays as First Officer LeRoy Homer and he too is great. He also just acts likes its a regular day and easily had me believed that he was this person. Christian Clemenson plays as Tom Burnett and I have never seen him before. He does a great job for an unknown actor and I enjoyed his performance in the film. Trish Gates plays as Sandra Bradshaw and shes also someone that I have not seen before. She too does a good job in her role and plays the part with ease. We also have Cheyenne Jackson playing as Mark Bingham and hes also great as the rest of the cast.

The visual look of United 93 is simply great. The film doesn't look like its got much if any special effects. Crash footage's seem like they were taken from CNN videos just like how everything is mostly from their too. The film does contain some grain here and their, but I think it was the directors intent to make the film seem more real. Director Greengrass shot the film using handy cam which is the same type of camera used in the last Bourne films. Alot of people have criticized him for using such cameras because the image is never stable and always seems to be moving. I personally don't find this to be a problem because I think it adds a certain realism to the movie. Colors are also pretty vibrant which shouldn't come as a surprise since alot of the film is somewhat outside. Flesh tones are accurate and hold up really well. Detail is pretty great with close up shots showing a good amount of detail and clarity.

The soundtrack in United 93 is wonderful. The score is composed by John Powell who also scored other hit films such as The Bourne Supremacy and X-Men: The Last Stand. He does a fantastic job here and his score goes oh so well with the story. It isn't easy scoring a film like this, but I think he did an outstanding job that very much captures the events of this film. His score isn't used for a good 75% of the movie, but when its their, its great. United 93 also features a pretty good bass mix. The film is mostly dialogue driven, but theirs a good amount of bass here and their. Dynamics are somewhat front heavy, but also tend to spread out wide as the movie goes along. Its not going to blow your socks off, but its really good for a heavy dialogue driven film like this.

United 93 is a fantastic experience that really got to me. Its heart wrenching, powerful and simply amazing. I really wasn't expecting the film to be this good, but I was proven wrong. The story is predictable and yet it still amazes me. The last few scenes of the film are just emotional and can really bring some tears into your eyes. The cast is all new to me and yet they manage to amaze me with their wonderful performances. The visual look of the film is great with some good colors mixed with a good amount of detail. The soundtrack is outstanding and I loved every minute of John Powell's score for the film. Director Paul Greengrass has done an amazing job directing this film. Some of the stuff that he did for this film is just jaw dropping. I can easily recommend this film to those looking for a great film that's not easy to watch, but very well worth it in the end.

Grade: A-


micky said...

saw this in theaters and almost cried near the end. good review as always farzan

Mitch Harper said...

I loved this movie. I have it on DVD. It's not your usual movie experience and that's one of the unique things about it.

Your heart just pours out to those people that went through that and you wanna get up and fight the terrorists with them. I remember that's how I felt when I watched it. They were true heroes on that day. Who knows what could of happened had they not fought back.

The Mad Hatter said...

Great review of a truly unforgettable film.

If you want to get an even better appreciation of it, look for the A&E made-for-tv movie of the same story.

Comparing this masterpiece to A&E's schmaltzy weeper is like night and day.

Stacia said...

Great post.

You may have heard of David Rasche, he was in the cast of the film in a smaller role. He's best known as "Sledge Hammer!", the 80s TV show.