United 93 is the second well-known film centred around the fourth plane hijack. From the outset, this film goes for as factual documentary style as possible by staying in the various communication centres and the plane itself. It’s a testament that several of the people actually play themselves in the film as to how respectful and tastefully done it is.
Runtime: 1hr 51 mins
In what feels like an almost real-time account of the events, we see each crash in turn from the people trying to manage the situation and exactly how impossible everyone’s job must have been on that day. The first hour centres around the general chaos of the morning itself as everyone shouts back and forth trying to make sense of events while the latter half focuses on the United 93 flight. This is where this adaptation is head and shoulders above the rest. By having some of the real people on the day being involved in the film, it lends credibility to what so many people like to have an opinion on.
The acting is superb throughout and there are no effects shots from outside the plane to put you off or take you outside of the general experience. It’s also filmed in a way that is dynamic but not intrusive – less camera shake wannabe documentary and more dirt and braces feel. It also doesn’t go tugging at heart-strings either by using the obvious things such as babies, the Lord’s Prayer (the moment that always gets me in Flight 93 yet I’m very aware that it’s being included for a reason) and a several goodbye calls but they are part of the films overall scope, not the whole scope.
I think United 93 knows that it could never fully include every single brave and heroic person and so includes very short snippets of lots of people and this makes a lot of sense. It’s not often I talk about extras on a DVD but United 93 makes a marked difference with two particular features. The first is a memorial section with a biography for each life lost on that flight. The second is an hour documentary about how the families have dealt with having such a high-profile disaster happening to them. It’s very interesting to hear what these people have to say and how they’ve formed a bond with each other as a new family as they mourn and pay tribute to their lost loved ones. Some of the actors meet with the families and it must have been an extremely surreal experience as they’ve matched physically the characters quite closely.
Ultimately I feel United 93 is the stronger film of the ones based on the ’93 plane. It displays everything in an understated way and although the last ten minutes, we will never entirely know what happened, it’s still done tastefully well. Add to that all the participation and support from the real people affected, it feels like this is the closest you can get to a supported recreation of the actual events.