Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
What about the Psalm 91 promises? (“…no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent…”) Answer
The Origin of bad—How did bad things come about? Answer
What kind of world would you create? Answer
What is Islam? an overview for Christians
Why should Christians love Muslims? Answer
Are most Muslims terrorists? Answer
Movie review: “World Trade Center”
|Featuring||Meghan Heffern, Olivia Thirlby, Becky London, Ben Sliney, Cheyenne Jackson, Chip Zen, Chloe Sirene, Christian Clemenson, Corey Johnson, Daniel Sauli, David Alan Basche, Denny Dillon, Eric Redman, Gary Commock, Gregg Henry, Jamie Harding, JJ Johnson, Jodie Lynne McClintock, Joe Jamrog, John Rothman, Kate Jennings Grant, Khalid Abdalla, Leigh Zimmerman, Lewis Alsamari, Libby Morris, Liza Coloc-Zayas, Lorna Dallas, Marceline Hugot, Masato Kamo, Michael Bofshever, Michael J Reynolds, Nancy McDoniel, Omar Berdouni, Opal Alladin, Patrick St. Esprit, Peter Hermann, Peter Marinker, Polly Adams, Ray Charleson, Rebecca Schull, Richard Bekins, Simon Poland, Starla Benford, Susan Blommeart, Tara Hugo, Tom O’Rourke, Trieste Dunn, Trish Gates|
|Producer||Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin|
“September 11, 2001. Four planes were hijacked. Three of them reached their target. This is the story of the fourth.”
April 28, 2006: As I pulled on my well worn 9/11 commemorative T-shirt and carefully pinned my “God Bless America” pin to my jacket, I wondered if anyone else attending the afternoon showing of “United 93” would do the same.
As I left the house I paused on the porch and gave a thoughtful gaze at the American flag that fluttered on our pole. I had placed it there the day of the terrorist attacks and after President Bush vowed a war on terrorism, I pledged not to take it down until every last troupe returned home. Five years now, and my Old Glory is faded and has weather worn holes, but she faithfully waves still in the Spring time sun.
Driving to the theater, I pondered the 40 passengers aboard flight 93 and their families. I also relived the shocking moments of that day, not really so long ago, when we all watched in horror as the New York Twin Towers collapsed under the strain of tangled metal taking with it in the flames of burning jetliner fuel, thousands of innocent victims.
At a stoplight I took Bible in hand and turned to Psalm 93. Perhaps within that number there would be some words to lead me today. From the King James He Spoke:
“The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith He hath girded Himself: the world also is established, that it cannot be moved.
Thy Throne is established of old… thou art everlasting… Thy testimonies are very sure: Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, forever.”
Knowing I was attending the second “first showing” of “United 93” this day, I was curious as to how many went to see the “premier program” before me. The cashier informed me that the seats were at least half full then, and that this showing was filling rapidly. I took that as a good sign for the film, as it was in the afternoon of a work day. Not bad for that many to turn out before the evening performances.
I stood and waited as the viewers of the previous program filtered through the doors. I watched their faces and tried to see into their eyes. They quietly exited. Not one was talking. No tears. No discussion. No hint as to what I was about to see.
I took my usual seat, smack dab in the middle of the auditorium. Best seat in the house for a reviewer. It took five minutes for the house to fill up behind me. The first four rows of the theater were empty except for a few teenaged kids who love to sit that close anyway.
A hush fell over the crowd as the curtains rolled away and the screen faded in on the bustling activities of an early morning airport….and as you know, the rest, as they say, is history.
“United 93” is a largely speculative documentary style drama based on the events that took place aboard the fourth airliner hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001 ending in the crash into a Pennsylvania field. Set onboard flight 93 and also within the flight controller’s work spaces on the ground, along with the activity within a military ops center, the 93 minutes of realtime experience is both keenly gripping and tartly inspiring.
It is said that the 40 passengers on flight 93 sat down as strangers and stood up as one. It is true that a random collection of strangers realized the events taking place on the ground in the cities far beneath them, by cell phone correspondence with loved ones. With a threat of the destruction of the White House and possibly the life of our President, not to mention the fact that more innocent American lives could be lost, this collection of strangers faced their fate and came together to confront an unthinkable threat. We may never know exactly what transpired aboard flight 93 that morning, but “United 93” gives us the educated guess. Director Paul Greengrass has done his home work.
I could reel off the names of the 45 actors, but that would be very much beside the point; “United 93” has been cast for anonymity to keep it’s documentary feel, and except for John Rothman, the character actor playing passenger Edward Felt, there’s not a familiar face in the cast. A noteworthy addition is the casting of Ben Sliney, national operations manager for the FAA at Kennedy Airport and actually in charge of the FAA’s command center on 9/11, which makes the story even more compelling and accurate. This casting decision adds an eerie sense of realism.
Watching everyone onboard do what they can in the face of horrific fear and certain death—consoling, planning, encouraging, and praying—finally breaking into the cockpit amid a thicket of arms and hands to wrest control from the hijacker pilot, Ziad Jarrah (well done by Khalid Abdalla) was heart stopping. I was riveted to my seat and continued to feel goose bumps from the time I saw the north tower explode to the tragic and well known end.
I strongly urge parents to discuss the tragedy and heroism of September 11th’s events with their children. As Pearl Harbor and The Holocaust, this day should never be forgotten. Each generation has a duty to the next to pass down the horrible realities of religious fundamentalism, racial prejudice, bigotry, and genocide. Please put a real emphasis on the courage and heroism issues! The valor of these men and women in the grim face of death shows heroism above and beyond most human capability. It most assuredly resides within the spiritual.
In keeping with the discussion-only premise of terrorism paired with extreme religious ideology resulting in murder and/or genocide, discussion-only is where it should stay for children under age 16. They may see this film later, when they can deal with the emotional impact of human beings fighting for their lives. Talking about it and seeing it demonstrated right before your eyes are two very different things. The look of reality, some screaming, crying, stabbing and blood strewn over passengers and terrorist alike, although actors in character, will definitely be terrifying and will shatter the emotions of any child under age 16. No matter what age, the powerfully visceral images portrayed will haunt us all.
April 25, 2006: At the film’s premiere used for the fifth anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival (a festival that was created because of September 11th) the Ziegfeld theater, gave the family balcony seats. They made a connection with the actors with sobs and applause. FOX news columnist Roger Friedman explains why and whom it will haunt:
“…When the 93 minute movie ended—in silence, not an explosion—the people in the balcony sobbed in a way I have never heard before in a movie house.”
Mr. Friedman goes on to note, as many of us will, “…I don’t know if “United 93” has given them closure or permission to keep reliving the horror.”
God only knows, Mr. Friedman.
The language used is adult and based on the petrifying circumstances these individuals were under, explicatives like “he**” twice, “Jesus” (not used as a prayerful cry) thrice, and the f-word more than 7 times, might be expected but not excused for Christian movie goers who cannot condone such words.
As well may be known by the time you see this review, the film was screened and approved by surviving family members of the passengers aboard flight 93. Director Paul Greengrass deals with the material in a frank and realistic manner, but with sensitivity to the wounds that 9/11 has put upon them. It is gut-wrenching and convincing, but to me had one major flaw. “United 93” does not take us beyond the crash in that lonely field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It must allow moviegoers an appreciation of how terror was transformed into courage. It must answer the question, “Is it too soon?”
Although the film refers in a vague way to the decision to storm the cabin and take over the plane, it does not deal with the “why” of it. No conviction was shown as to the fortitude in the face of death these people courageously possessed to take down their oppressors because of the threat to innocent others on the ground. The much printed transcript of Todd Beamer (David Alan Basche) alone shows in his words the confidence he and the other three men, Mark Bingham (Cheyenne Jackson), Tom Burnett (Christian Clemensen) and Jeremy Glick (Peter Hermann as leader of the team to storm the cockpit) had in what they were about to do. Even though these four men are the most visible to the public, everyone on board was equal in a collective act of bold resistance to terrorism.
It must be noted that “United 93” in trying to define heroics has left out the most important part—to show the support of countless Americans to the sacrifice of the passengers on flight 93! They had a cause more Godly than the terrorist’s and their sacrifice for the lives of others should be duly noted and was not given a voice!
Paula Nacke Jacobs, sister of passenger Louis Nacke, contends the final scene carries the symbolic truth of collective intent. She says: “It was a group of hands. It wasn’t a face or a name. It was all, a group, doing it together.”
Writer/Director Paul Greengrass knows after intensive interviews with family members and telephone operators that cellphone calls to loved ones made them aware that two other planes controlled by terrorist had struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He says, “…93’s passengers were the first people to inhabit the (9/11 world) where the choices are ultimately harsh and bleak: Are we going to sit here and do nothing, or are we going to do something?” the filmmaker says. “And if so, what is it going to be, and what are the consequences? I think there is wisdom in that story for us today.”
Lourdes Lebron, whose sister was on flight 93, declares: “This is the movie to see—to be strong!” And she adds, “…it is never too soon.” in reference to if this film has come upon us too closely after the fact. In light of the current trial proceedings of confessed September 11th conspirator Mousauri, and in turn the transcripts of the flight 93 cockpit tapes being made public at this time, “United 93” seems even more relevant and the need to see it even sharper.
Dorothy Garcia, whose husband Andrew died on 93 that day, says the movie is overdue, “…because the heroism aboard flight 93 is sometimes obscured by the overwhelming tragedy of that day.”
Loads of expression has been put into print since 9/11 shook our country. Keeping in mind the collective impact, here is a poem written by Richard McMurray just one day after flight 93 and it’s courageous occupants met their God:
What man can say that when its time
He’ll find the strength of hero’s kind
When death he faces eye to eye
On skyjacked airship in the sky
I called to warn the world below
They’ve taken ’way the plane’s control
They’ve killed and hold us with a bomb
The threat: our lives end won’t be long
But you must know this is a plan
The New York Towers no longer stand!
Then stop them we must, though we’ll die
We four will end this plot on high!
They will not take this plane to task
Though strength from God I have to ask
My wife, my dear, my love you know
Now men we’re ready—I say “LET’S ROLL!”
Then four men rose to death defy
And took that plane down from the sky
And this one missed it’s target floor
America salutes you—HEROS FOUR!!
David Beamer, whose son Todd famously uttered the phrase “Let’s roll” before the battle against the terrorist hijackers, says he was gratified that Greengrass included Todd’s final prayer with the telephone operator—“Christianity and faith was a big part of Todd’s life,” his father says.
The script does underplay the “let’s roll” line. It’s whispered as Beamer hunches behind a seat trying to pump the others up for the confrontation. It is not a heroic battle cry and David Beamer is okay with that. He believes that the movie version may be closer to the way his son really said it: “(If he shouted it), that would have given the enemy a few more seconds to prepare.” The element of surprise was crucial to success.
“If we believe wholeheartedly, each moment, that our destiny rests in the hands of Jesus Christ—the one with ultimate love and ultimate power—what do we have to be concerned about? Of course, our humanity clouds the truth many times but hanging on to glimpses of it keeps everything in perspective.”—Lisa Beamer
Many people I spoke with after the film were extremely concerned with the “Allah” issue. That being that the terrorists were shown praying to God, but the passengers prayers to God were almost unintelligible. They knew that it was good for us to note that the hijackers truly believed (as all Islamic radicals do to this day) they were on a mission condoned and instructed by Allah (God), but the stark difference in the prayers uttered by the hostages were notably different in their spiritual themes and should have been audible because of the relevance to the viewer.
One man told me, “There’s gotta be something wrong when a man (meaning the hijackers) makes a prayer that God be with him, when he’s about to kill over 40 innocent people!” He also reminded all of us standing there that “…this didn’t start with September 11th, 2001, it started with the 52 American hostages taken way back in 1977.”
“The terrorists in contrast, were sending prayers up to God (Allah) to give them victory in destroying hundreds of lives (ref: “Thanks be to God, we are in control! The brothers have hit the target [ The Twin Towers ] Allah, I depend on you. On you I have given my faith!”), while the terrified passengers aboard flight 93 were sending prayers up to Heaven for God to protect their spirits and welcome them into His Kingdom.” Was another woman’s remark.
“Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”—Apostle Paul, Romans 8:35-36
Rosemary Dillard, who’s husband was a passenger on American Flight 77, wants us all to Remember it wasn’t just what terrorists did to her husband, but “…what they have done to the United States. Just remember that all of us are not the same person now because of 9/11. We have all changed because of this terrorist attack.”
“In the midst of the tragedy of [9/11] Jesus Christ came to walk over the chaos. The passengers of the plane that crashed outside Pittsburgh knew they were going to die, and they took a vote, which was unanimous, and rushed the terrorists to take the plane down before it could reach its target. They did better than Peter did when Jesus told him that he, too, could walk over chaos.” —The Rev. H. Dana Fearon III of the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, N.J. at a memorial ceremony the weekend after the attack.
Going out to the “United 93” Web site you will find a feature called “an inside look” where is posted comments by family members about the film. One in particular says it up front: “…40 passengers and crew were murdered aboard flight 93 as they participated in a revolt against terrorists intent on crashing their plane into our Nation’s Capital, fully understanding that their lives were forfeit. Those 40 individuals chose to fight and WIN THE FIRST VICTORY in our country’s war against terrorism!”
“It’s not about vengeance—it’s about justice. We are a nation of law. You can be a nation of law AND a compassionate nation at the same time.” — President George Bush, April 24, 2006.
“Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.” — Pope John Paul II, at a service for the fallen of September 11, 2001.
Alice Ann Hoglan, Mother of Mark Bingham also believes we are a people of compassion: “We are all part of the human family. None of us is beyond redemption. Every soul that was lost on September 11th was beautiful and much loved… and much missed.” she goes on to say, “It gives me a lot of comfort knowing that Mark died engaged in a really brave effort.”
“All you who put your hope in the Lord be strong and brave.” — Psalm 31:24
I believe, as I wear proudly my perhaps outdated “God Bless America” button, that the 40 people upon United Flight 93 were hand picked by God to be there for each other and for Americans and as a shining tribute to our courage and resolve on September 11,2001. As I read back over the lives of all those who gave themselves to save many that day on flight 93, one thing shines true to all no matter what walk of life they came from, and that is character and compassion.
“Character creates courage. Courage is an outgrowth of who we are. Exterior supports may temporarily sustain, but only inward character creates courage.” — Max Lucado from “The Applause of Heaven”
I have taken the liberty to quote many people today, some famous some not so famous. It is my sincere belief that they all are passionate about their faith. And, speaking of passionate faith, I cannot help thinking that while the Islamic Radicals who hijacked United Flight 93 believed fiercely that there was strength in their death, I believe that for every person who gave up their lives that day—there is greater strength in sacrifice.
…and if I may quote just one more person…
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” — Jesus Christ
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.