Sunday, April 09, 2006

Let's Roll! Inside the Making of United 93

TIME Magazine has an early review, and it looks like it will be a good movie. Excerpt:

Perhaps those who saw the trailer didn’t realize that this was the one flight, of the four hijacked that day, with an inspiring ending. This was the one on which the good guys, following passenger Todd Beamer’s John Wayne-like invocation, “Let’s roll,” foiled the bad guys. The saga of this flight makes for, in 9/11 terms, a feel-good movie. Just as important, United 93, at which Time was given an exclusive first look, is a good movie—taut and implacable—that honors the deeds of the passengers while being fair, if anyone cares, to the hijackers’ jihad bravado. […] If this is a horror movie, it is an edifying one, a history lesson with the pulse of a world-on-the-line suspense film. […]

“Subsequent to 9/11,” says Greengrass, an Englishman who directed the superb docudrama Bloody Sunday, set in Northern Ireland in 1972, and the gritty espionage film The Bourne Supremacy, “we all had to make decisions about the world we live in, about the courses of action that we take. This film is saying that, before we got to that, there was this event: this extraordinary work of fate, mired in confusion, with the passengers gaining knowledge of 9/11 as they went. What that did was create a debate on the plane: What are we going to do? Are we going to do nothing and hope for the best, or are we going to do something? What can we do? What will be the consequences of both courses of action? That is our post-9/11 debate.” Which the doomed, defiant passengers had just a few minutes to comprehend and resolve—on the fly.

United 93 is a meticulous reconstruction of that morning. Greengrass worked closely with the victims’ families, who had already heard the black-box recordings, and the actors, who were improvising. Few events, either on the plane or in the air-traffic control centers, are underlined for effect. As Bingham’s mother Alice Hoagland notes, “What happened on board Flight 93 has so much drama and pace, it needs no embellishment.” […]

[W]herever possible, Greengrass cast people close to their roles. J.J. Johnson, who plays the captain of Flight 93, is a real United pilot. Trish Gates, who plays head flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw, was a real United flight attendant. Ben Sliney, who as national operations manager for the faa kept track of the mounting atrocities, appears as himself. Lewis Alsamari, who plays one of the hijackers, spent a year in the Iraqi army. The actors playing the terrorists were kept segregated from those playing the passengers; they stayed in different hotels and did not meet until the hijack sequence was shot. Those actors had to deal with the violence on a more personal level.

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