United 93 is one biographical memorial that soars over any and all genre tropes. Any feature tackling the events of 9/11 is surrounded by a thin line that when crossed, ventures into the realms of sensationalising a tragic event for entertainment purposes. It's a difficult subject to tackle, and one that needs to be conveyed from a semi-neutral perspective that prevents any glorification of certain individuals without substantial evidence. That being said, the hijacking scenario that took place aboard United Airlines Flight 93, a plane temporarily controlled by al-Qaeda terrorists intending to crash into US Capitol, is one of the most challenging narratives available.
The inevitability of its outcome serves as a harrowing depiction that showcases human nature at its most desperate. The passengers, acknowledging the suicidal exploitation, exerting one final desperate surge for survival. The terrorists, controlled radically by religion, performing disciplined actions predominated by extremism. The flight control employees chaotically coming to terms with the country's vulnerability and inability to provide national security. Several heightened perspectives, combined together in a symphony of technical flawlessness, that never at any one point resorts to Hollywood sensationalism.
This, is Greengrass' greatest achievement. Whether you appreciate his erratic control of the camera and clinical approach to worldly situations or not, his literary interpretation of the proceeding events, both in the air and on the ground, is so technically assured that it is almost impossible to criticise. Producing sobering thrills from simply analysing at an air traffic radar monitor is nothing short of outstanding, and the nullifying effect Greengrass creates is not a result of his astute direction. It's the inevitability of this tragedy. Witnessing the flight number "AA11" abruptly disappear, without showing any dramatisation of the impact, is what sends chills down the spine. Observing the traffic controllers and military personnel come to terms with the attacks beckons to our own reminiscence of when we ourselves watched the events unfold back in '01. Such intelligence is utilised to depict the background chaos, that it never once disrupts the distressing urgency of the film's purpose.
Everyone will remember the World Trade Centre attacks, some may recall the Pentagon blast, but how many of you honestly remember the United 93 flight? News coverage can only cover so much in such a heightened time of turmoil, which is why this biographical drama is so important. It doesn't just retell the events, using footage from that very morning. It shows the very best and very worst of humanity.
With the cooperation of all the passengers' families, Greengrass managed to produce a subtle level of sympathy and empowerment in well under two hours. The earnest phone calls home as passengers plead their love one final time. The surge of togetherness for that one last push, in spite of the unlikely chance of survival. And aside from the portrayal of Christian Adams, a German passenger who received minimal development and therefore came across as desperately appeasing as opposed to methodical (which was a questionable choice to say the least), every single passenger was portrayed delicately and lovingly. Powell's score also accompanies the ensuing drama with a visceral amount of palpable tension.
United 93 is not entertaining. If you want to watch a mildly enjoyable film and dismiss the extremities of reality, put on 'Shrek' or something. This, is real. This is harrowingly depressing. But most profoundly, this is important. With Greengrass commanding every single frame to technical perfection, United 93 will leave you breathless.