Genre: Drama / Fantasy / History
Runtime: 111 min
Country: France / UK / USA
"Flight 93" is the first of two films about September 11 to be released in cinemas nationwide. The other will be "World Trade Center," Oliver Stone's attempt at recreating some of what happened in the towers of the same name on that fateful day. In a way, what Paul Greengrass has attempted with "Flight 93" is bolder than Stone's project. The story of Flight 93 is a contemporary myth, engrained in our collective memory. And while the collapse of the twin towers is similarly engrained, no one particular story is. For that reason, Greengrass had a difficult task with "Flight 93:" to make a movie that accurately portrayed our shared memory of that story, even though our memories differ so. While the story of Flight 93 is almost universally seen as a moment when regular Americans became heroes who rushed to the aid of their nation as it was under attack, its larger significance, as well as pesky details, differ.
Was the confrontation on Flight 93 the first manifestation of the "good vs. evil" framework set down by President Bush? Was it a clash of civilizations, with Westerners uniting to thwart the attempts of extremist Muslims? These are questions many will undoubtedly ask after seeing this movie, and these are questions whose answers will politicize the movie and the story itself. Greengrass does not shy away from taking stands on some of these questions.
A poignant scene towards the end of the film shows passengers reciting the Lord's Prayer while the terrorists repeat their Islamic mantra, a thinly veiled attempt to portray the "clash of civilizations" that was ignited on September 11. "Flight 93" also attempts to provide a lasting narrative. The idea that perhaps the air force shot down the airplane is not only not incorporated into the film, several bits of dialogue and the epilogue debunk it. Similarly, the terrorists place a picture of the Capitol Building in the c*ckpit, when many believed the intended target of Flight 93 was the White House.
Greengrass succeeds at constructing a definite narrative and placing it within the larger context of the events of September 11, as told through observers at NORAD and the FAA. At moments, the film meanders into becoming about governmental incompetence, a popular topic, especially in the post-Katrina environment, but wholly unnecessary in this movie. "Flight 93" shines best when it focuses on the human drama that unfolded within the cabin. When the words "lets roll" are muttered, their damped delivery makes for an eerie moment. It brings home the realization that we are watching something happen that we have only heard about before.
"Flight 93" will bring back memories of September 11 to most viewers. While some conservatives may complain about a liberal bias, and some liberals will complain about a conservative bias, this film, like the story it is based on, is a personal one more so than a political one.
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