(director/writer: Paul Greengrass; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editors: Clare Douglas/Christopher Rouse/Richard Pearson; music: John Powell; cast: As the Flight 93 Crew: JJ Johnson (Capt. Jason M. Dahl), Gary Commock (First Officer LeRoy Homer), Polly Adams (Deborah Welsh), Opal Alladin (CeeCee Lyles), Starla Benford (Wanda Anita Green), Trish Gates (Sandra Bradshaw) and Lorraine G. Bay (Nancy McDoniel). As the Flight 93 Passengers: David Alan Basche (Todd Beamer), Richard Bekins (William Joseph Cashman ), Jane Folger (Susan Blommaert), Ray Charleson (Joseph DeLuca), Christian Clemenson (Thomas E. Burnett Jr.) and Liza Colon-Zayas (Waleska Martinez). As the Flight 93 Hijackers: Khalid Abdalla (Ziad Jarrah), Lewis Alsamari (Saeed al-Ghamdi), Omar Berdouni (Ahmed al-Haznawi) and Jamie Harding (Ahmed al-Nami). At the Herndon, Va., control center: Ben Sliney (as himself). At Northeast Air Defense Sector: Maj. James Fox (as himself); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Lloyd Levin/Mr. Greengrass; Universal Pictures; 2006)

“It’s a film for our time.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Revisits through an enactment dramatization the terrorist crash of United Flight 93 on 9/11. It’s a film that’s bound to get your blood boiling as it puts the viewer through a roller coast ride of emotions that might range from fear to terror to despair. That it does so without being exploitative must be credited to the noble and moving way British writer-director Paul Greengrass (“Bloody Sunday”/”The Bourne Supremacy”) makes it more than a frightening snuff film of the Newark-to-San Francisco flight that crashed at 10:03 a.m. in a Pennsylvania field and that he imbues it with spiritual hope. At its best it provides a chance to soberly reflect on what it all means for those who are ready to face again that tragedy after only five years. Instead of inflaming hatred against the Muslims who carried out the attack or offering a blind patriotism that would pave the way for “An eye for an eye” revenge, the film helps us connect with the victims and use this experience as a healing process. Greengrass, in a most believable and realistic way, offers his speculation on what took place on board the fourth hijacked plane that day; it includes the possible actions of the passengers whom he gives credence to heroically charging the cockpit. Their supposed brave actions spared their country the most likely destruction of either the White House or the Capitol. The film shifts back and forth between military air-defense facilities in Herndon, Virginia and the Northeast Air Defense Sector base in Rome, New York–the air-traffic-control centers in Cleveland, Boston and New York (using some of the real-life participants to play themselves)–the nervous families waiting on the ground–and– the real-time flight of United 93. We are taken on that doomed ride and get a chance to view all the parties concerned, including the twisted Arab Muslims who carried out this dastardly suicide mission in the name of their religion (four devout religious men, shown praying in their hotel room on the morning of their mission, who are blinded by a hatred so great that it makes their religious devotion meaningless) .

The film about real heroism plays as a conventional Hollywood action thriller, though without any big name stars (the relatively unknown cast of professional actors do a fine job) or dazzling special effects. Whether this unvarnished, unsentimental take on the tragedy came too soon, depends on each viewer. For me, the film is gripping, positive and handles its most painful subject matter with the assurance that it’s a history lesson that must be told, the sooner the better, so we can ponder why and be inspired to work in preventing a repeat. The aftermath of the tragedy served to unite the country (and for that matter the world) like it hasn’t been for a long time; that the unity was soon lost should make us question what happened. Though it’s based mostly on speculation since everyone involved died in the crash, it does effectively use the facts it possesses (cell phone conversations, family interviews, and the 9/11 Commission Report) to intermix speculation (especially the killing of the two terrorists in the cockpit by the passengers) with reality. It’s a film for our time, one that will hopefully stir a further rational debate over the big world issue of terrorism that still dominates our lives.

REVIEWED ON 11/3/2006 GRADE: B     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/