So good, but so stressful. So during the plane hijackings on 9/11/2001, three out of the four planes hit their intended targets. This is the story about the one plane that didn’t, and the heroic actions taken by the passengers that prevented the plane from reaching the White House. Just being honest here, I’ve been putting off watching this for 9 years now. It is very upsetting material, and from what I heard, this was the best made one on the subject matter. I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to watch this, given that I was well aware that this was going to be such an overwhelming experience, but a list has no sympathy in that department, and given that is featured on the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, there was no time like this past weekend to jump right in.
Believe it or not, I’m not actually the biggest Paul Greengrass fan; I love Captain Phillips, but his overuse of shaky camera when there’s no reason to have it usually leads to a disconnect with me, namely with the Bourne series. There are always exceptions to the rule, and this is a giant exception. There’s two buttons you should know about me: 1. I have this thing about plane crashes. I’m not even afraid of flying, but watching portrayals/live footage of plane crashes causes the heightening of all of my senses, which makes me totally submit myself to the scene, turning down the volume on everything else, and 2. I have this thing about self-sacrifice. It gets an emotional reaction out of me, and it usually wins instant points. It’s almost unfair to pit this movie against me, as this features both of these elements in such excess.
This was one of the most emotionally draining experiences I have ever put myself through. I was nervous on pins and needles the entire time I watched this, forgetting to breathe through a number of the sequences. Even though you already know the end result, this keeps you engaged not only because of the excellent performances, but also because it gives you a great timeline on how it all went down on this fateful morning. I do like the decision to go with a cast of unknowns; if I was looking at a big famous actor leading the charge, it would very likely yank me out of the film. Looking at these people who I’ve never seen before deliver such top notch performances allowed me to really stay in the moment. This is a claustrophobic masterpiece that I’m not likely to watch again any time soon.
United 93 (2006) *****
– Critic for Hire