Some say it’s too soon for a movie about Flight 93. I don’t understand that argument; how can nearly five years from the event be too soon? After all, this is not an in-depth exploration of the event’s historical ramifications. It’s a movie depicting the event itself, in real time.
It seems to me that those who say we’re not ready yet are really saying they don’t want to face the truth–not then, not now, not ever.
Some people who had to face the truth were present at the movie’s NY premiere. They were ninety family members of those who died on Flight 93.
It sounds as though viewing the movie was a deeply emotional experience, both for those family members, and for many others in the audience:
The sobbing at the back of the auditorium was not the sentimental sniffling you normally hear at the cinema. It was the full-throated grief more typically heard in a hospital or a funeral home.
On Tuesday night anguished families wailed as they watched the last moments of their loved ones’ lives unfold on screen at the world premiere of United 93…
“It’s horrific to see my brother, Edward, on the screen, knowing what is going to happen,” Gordon Felt said. “It’s shattering, but it needs to be. This is a violent story.”
Despite the ornate surroundings of the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan, the event was almost certainly the most sombre film premiere in the history of New York. The audience gave the victims’ families a standing ovation before the screening but were overwhelmed towards the end by the open weeping of the relatives and left the auditorium in stunned silence.
The article mentions that the film was made with the cooperation of the victims’ families, in addition to the surprising–at least to me–fact that some air controllers and Federal Aviation Authority officials played themselves in it. I wonder if that was therapeutic for them, or difficult. Or both.
The movie’s British writer/director Paul Greengrass gives some perspective that sounds more realistic than the usual facile Hollywood cliches:
The writer-director, whose features include Bloody Sunday, said that he was chastened by his experience of working in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland is one of the few examples of where political violence has been negotiated away, thanks to the political engagement of all the parties in a peace agreement,” he said. “My time making films there has shown me it takes a long time.”
Greengrass seems like an interesting figure, with a background primarily in documentary filmmaking. Here are a few quotes from an interview with him:
I think in the end that movies are the principal means of mass-communication. They’re the principal way that we tell stories about the way we’re living to each other. We tell stories to entertain ourselves, and to divert ourselves, and we tell stories that are wonderful pieces of escapism, to give us a nice time on a rainy day. There are all sorts of reasons why we like to tell stories to tell each other. But one of the things we do is tell stories about the way the world is. I believe in a movie industry that operates across the board – it makes all sorts of different types of films. Including films about the big stuff facing us. Hollywood has always done that, throughout it’s history. It’s always done that, as well as all the other things. And it will have to grapple with 9/11 because it’s the single most important event that’s occurred in our lifetime…
…you had forty people – or slightly less, as some had been killed – essentially you had a small number of people on an airplane who were the first people to inhabit the post-9/11 world. For all the rest of us, whether we were in civilian air traffic control, Presidential bunkers, or just ordinary folks like us watching on TV, we knew something terrible was happening, but we didn’t really know what. We maybe knew it was terrorism, but we didn’t know what. But for those people on the airplane they knew exactly what it was, they could see what was facing them, and here’s the thing – they faced a terrible, terrible dilemma. The dilemma was: what do we do? Do we sit here and hope for the best? Or do we strike back at them before they do what we think they might be about to do? In the course of action of whatever those two choices we make, what are the chances of a good outcome from either of those two choices?
That dilemma is the post-9/11 dilemma. It’s the dilemma we have all faced since then. The things we face in our world – whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq or Abu Ghraib, issues of world peace, issues of national security, it doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum and how you view those issues. I would submit that all of us, whatever our persuasions are, all of us understand that that is the dilemma. What do we do? How do we deal with this thing?
To answer your question, we know from the fragments that we can we know from the airplane – the phone calls, the cockpit voice recorders, the evidence we can deduce from the other planes – we know they weighed, they debated the issue. They voted on it. In the end they acted, and there were consequences. I think that if you build this film up on a strong foundation of fact, that by the time you get to the last minutes of that airplane journey you’ll be inhabiting a debate that, whilst we cannot know exactly what it was, we know broadly how it goes – because it’s our debate now.
And what of Greengrass’s politics? One might think he’s a neocon. But if one thought that, one would be wrong.
He doesn’t discuss his political opinions in any recent interviews I’ve read of his that promote “United 93.” But, from this article written in 2004, it’s clear that he’s against the Iraq War; he calls it “the most calamitous decision of our generation.”
Interesting, interesting, interesting. Greengrass doesn’t seem to have let his politics interfere with his desire to make this movie. He really does appear to be interested in just presenting the facts, and letting the viewer decide. And that seems both refreshing and unusual to me.