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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Meghan Heffern
Khalid Abdalla
Omar Berdouni
Jamie Harding
Lewis Alsamari
David Rasche
J J Johnson.
Directors
Paul Greengrass.
Screenwriters
Running Time
111 minutes

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United 93
Powerful and uncompromising recreation of the 9/11 flight.


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Plot
September 11, 2001. Four planes are hijacked by extremist Muslim terrorists. As the world watches, two are flown into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon. But final plane United 93 never reaches its target, crashing in a field in Pennsylvania. This is a reconstruction of those events, and an account of how the passengers took the decision to fight back.


Review
United 93
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This may be the most controversial movie of the year, but director Paul Greengrass didn’t set out to just piss people off with United 93. It’s not like he deliberately solicited those horrified cries of, “Too soon!” which accompanied the film’s Stateside trailer-screenings. Instead, he insists, he’s trying to “find meaning in the events of 9/11”.
 
In this sense, United 93 makes an interesting companion piece to Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Where Moore focused on the slow Presidential knee-jerk, Greengrass deals with the people on the ground and in the air who had to make tough, quick decisions as they realised this wasn’t a standard hijack-and-make demands affair, but rather an opening salvo in a terrifying new form of conflict. (Indeed, Dubya’s notable only by his complete absence, with references to everyone’s inability to get hold of him to confirm the “rules of engagement”.)
 
The result is an astoundingly intense pressure-cooker docudrama which plays out — horribly — in almost real-time. With its urgent handheld dynamic and nigh-on unbearable attention to mundane detail, this is reality that bites like a pitbull; we watch as the passengers prepare to board at Gate 17, making final cellphone calls, politely avoiding eye-contact, small-talking in the hushed tones of the mildly tense air-commuter — all alongside the men who will ultimately kill them — and the feel of dread is so palpable as to make us nauseous.
 
Which hardly recommends Greengrass’ movie as a night-out’s entertainment. Because entertainment it most certainly is not. So what is its value? Whether or not it’s been made “too soon” isn’t the point. The real question is: need it have been made at all? What meaning do we find?
 
As an historical document which should be handled with due care by future generations, it has plenty of value. Its most interesting moments take place in the air-traffic and military command centres. If there’s a ‘star’ here, it’s Federal Aviation Administration boss Ben Sliney (playing himself), whose snap decision to ground more than 4,000 aircraft over the entire United States — all on his first day on the job — proves deeply impressive.
 
Then there’s the film’s arguable value as catharsis, giving us an unblinking portrayal of what it was like to be one of those passengers. These everyday people, portrayed by virtual unknowns, grasp the true gravity of their situation, make calls to loved ones, organise a counter-attack and, while losing their own lives, possibly save countless others. Interestingly, despite all their families supporting this film, they’re not presented as all-American heroes; rather, their primary concern appears to be self-preservation and, come the strike-back, there’s almost a primal rush to put the boot in.
 
Yet in terms of finding meaning, United 93 does fall short in one area: its presentation of the hijackers. It opens with their mumblings of the Koran, boldly juxtaposes their prayers with those of the terrified passengers and intriguingly makes the first line of translated terrorist dialogue, “I love you” (via one of those departure-lounge cellphone-calls). But in terms of trying to make sense of why this atrocity occurred, of what the hell was going on in their fundamentalist brains, it achieves little. Of course, Greengrass’ remit was more to deal with the American response, and given he handles that so deftly, this is a forgivable and minor flaw. Still, perhaps we should add this year’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee Paradise Now as a viewing companion. While inferior to United 93, it does offer more insight into how the kind of people responsible for 9/11 are formed.


Verdict
Impossible to recommend as a great Friday night out, yet agonisingly vital as thought-urging cinema.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for United 93
Empire Star Rating

Unforgettable

With brilliant direction, taut editing, and some of the most realistic performances you'll ever see, United 93 is nothing short of a masterwork. One of the most unbearably intense and powerful films you'll ever see and certainly one of the best of the noughties. A gut-wrenching experience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 12:15, 04 March 2013 | Report This Post


United 93 Review

Potent and sobering, United 93 is even more gut-wrenching because the outcome is already known. While difficult to watch, director Paul Greengrass' film has been made with skill and treats the subject matter with respect, never resorting to the aggrandizement of which Hollywood has sometimes been accused. Especially effective is the cast of mostly unknown actors, who portray the passengers of the doomed flight as ordinary people who respond with bravery to extraordinary circumstances. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:01, 04 March 2012 | Report This Post


tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475276/]United 93i]9/11: The day that forever changed the modern world.hat is a better moment to watch the best film about this historic day again than in its anniversary weekend. Still the hair on my arms stand up straight when I see the images of those planes crashing into the WTC. Again you undergo the day that`s sratched into our collective memory. Greengrass made a beautiful ode to this day and its victims with this honest and gripping film. A lot of the peop... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 19:55, 12 September 2010 | Report This Post


One of the Most Powerful Films Of All Time

Some may think the build-up slow. Some may think its presentation of the event to be quite single-minded. But it is undoubtedly powerful. The hijack scene and the storming of the cockpit are two of the most shocking scenes in film history. Will hang in your memnry long after, much like Schindler's List. These films show us what happened and why it must be prevented. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kieran94 at 12:38, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


Extremely unsettling...

I stayed wide awake for 24 hours in shock after watching this because it truly is painful to watch and contains scenes which are unforgettable. I will never forget this film and obviously cannot forget the day which inspired it. It is also a testament to its power that I, as an American citizen who watched these events on TV when they actually occured, I have never put the dvd in my dvd player since watching it for the first time. Once for the day itself and once for the film is quite enough I t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by darkraven28 at 19:25, 06 August 2009 | Report This Post


Gripping

You don't need lots of action to make a good movie. You don't need a star-studded cast full of actors that everybody knows to make a good movie. I'll tell you what you do need: a gripping script (yet again, it doesn't have to have action), a great cast full of great actors (stars or not) and of course you need a great director. This film has all of these ingredients- utterly compelling. ... More

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Posted by !xHoTRoDx! at 11:14, 21 December 2008 | Report This Post


A superb real-time thriller.

I was shocked after seeing it. It is very crude. It contains some of the most shocking scenes I've ever seen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 01:31, 09 March 2008 | Report This Post


Perfectly Judged

In vivid contrast to the other film about the events that unfolded on September 11th 2001, World Trade Center, this film is not only gripping but is also a tasteful picture. Instead of glamourizing the action, it uses unknown actors so as to not take away from the event. Despite the fact you know the fate of the plane, you are still shocked when the planes firstly crash into the World Trade Center and secondly at the end of the film after one of the most stunning pieces of cinema in recent year... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tookeyboi at 22:18, 04 June 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Unforgettable

L: garysimpson I remember years ago watching Schindler's List for the first time. As the final titles rolled I sat, with my friends, in complete silence - such was the powerful impact the film made. United 93 produced a similar response. And yet, while Schindler earned Steven Spielberg his well deserved Oscar, how ironic that this film has been completely ignored by the American Academy. This is riveting cinema - a powerful telling of an important dramatic event handled with such skill and... More

Posted by Fivefur at 12:48, 16 May 2007 | Report This Post


RE:United 93

L: lynnshep Brilliant, heartbreaking, terrifying, uplifting. A truly excellent film--acting, directing, writing. Harrowing and brave film making. One of the best films of the last decade. Gutwrenching and compelling. You both are compelled to look at the screen and want to turn away. A superior achievement!!! Why did this film not get more critical recognition and where were the Oscar nominations for picture and acting? bout sums it up for me. I watched it on Sky a couple of nigh... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 11:09, 16 May 2007 | Report This Post


Stunning

Watched this on sky movies last night - an amazing piece of filmaking, very sad and thought provoking. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulscour10 at 09:12, 14 May 2007 | Report This Post


Stunning

Watched this on sky movies last night - an amazing piece of filmaking, very sad and thought provoking. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulscour10 at 09:12, 14 May 2007 | Report This Post


over rated

this film is superb the first time it's watched with some of the most shocking scenes in film i've ever seen (including the final scene which remains one of my favourite bits of cinema). however, the second viewing is bound to be one of the most boring 2 and whatever hours of your life... this film has absolutley NO rewatch value so i recommend you rent it. ... More

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Posted by shawshank prisoner at 09:29, 13 May 2007 | Report This Post


Excellent! ... More

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Posted by Me100 at 12:44, 04 May 2007 | Report This Post


Brilliant, heartbreaking, terrifying, uplifting. A truly excellent film--acting, directing, writing. Harrowing and brave film making. One of the best films of the last decade. Gutwrenching and compelling. You both are compelled to look at the screen and want to turn away. A superior achievement!!! Why did this film not get more critical recognition and where were the Oscar nominations for picture and acting? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 21:55, 16 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: United 93

It is five years now since the horrifying 9/11 hijack that crashed into the ground happend  but the outstanding United 93 brings it back so realisticly and intense. All the real people that worked in the airport and noticed the plain going in the wrong direction star in this film to play err themselfes. If I was guesing the reason the people involved were chosen for the role is that they can just act excactly how they were feeling when it was happening. The p... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mrdoom14 at 10:33, 02 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Unforgettable

I saw this on Sunday on DVD and what a film. After watching it I felt like I never wanted to watch it again purely becouse it was so harrowing, great film that deserves the praise it gets. ... More

Posted by BigKovacs at 14:36, 28 March 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Unforgettable

Watched this recently. Very well made, I liked the naturalistic style of it. The hijacking, when it happens, is quite shocking, while the retaliation of the hostages is quite affecting. It brings home how shocking and strange the reality of 9/11 was. ... More

Posted by Glorfindel at 11:24, 28 March 2007 | Report This Post


Unforgettable

I remember years ago watching Schindler's List for the first time. As the final titles rolled I sat, with my friends, in complete silence - such was the powerful impact the film made. United 93 produced a similar response. And yet, while Schindler earned Steven Spielberg his well deserved Oscar, how ironic that this film has been completely ignored by the American Academy. This is riveting cinema - a powerful telling of an important dramatic event handled with such skill and sensitivity that you... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by garysimpson at 01:20, 28 February 2007 | Report This Post


brilliant 9/11 drama i thought that it was one of the best films of the year but not as good as the deaprted ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by casino at 18:15, 23 February 2007 | Report This Post


The best film of the year, to say the least

The problem with modern multiplexes is that enormo-budget blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean tend to drown out smaller movies – even studio movies with a lot of buzz. And if you’re unfortunate enough to miss one of these littler pleasures, then a lot of the time you’re buggered; they’re on at the flicks for a fortnight, and then it’s ages before they turn up on DVD. And so, the year’s end rolls around, with magazines compiling lists of the greatest cin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by britesparc at 14:26, 07 February 2007 | Report This Post


I liked this film, and unlike a lot of films, chooses to educate its viewer instead of entertain. It is tough to watch and it keeps the viewer anxious throughout - which is remarkable since everyone knows the consquence of the flight. The acting, acted completely by unknowns, is spot-on, with the emotion sketched on their faces looking so real you can't help but wonder their emotional ties to the day. The film is editied very stylishly though - although this does not over-shadow the fick's su... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 19:11, 14 January 2007 | Report This Post


I liked this film, and unlike a lot of films, chooses to educate its viewer instead of entertain. It is tough to watch and it keeps the viewer anxious throughout - which is remarkable since everyone knows the consquence of the flight. The acting, acted completely by unknowns, is spot-on, with the emotion sketched on their faces looking so real you can't help but wonder their emotional ties to the day. The film is editied very stylishly though - although this does not over-shadow the fick's su... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukedge87 at 19:11, 14 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: United We Are

watched this the other night.. missed it in the cinema, because of the following conversation:   "shall we go see united 93?" "nah, we saw that /i] 93 the other day - same story, innit?" "well, yeah but this is supposed to be good" "but we know how it ends!" "pfft.. ok"   i watched it on a whim the other night, and its only the best film ive seen in the last year! good lord!! i was stunned..its one of the few films based on fact that ends in disaster where i forgot how... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by maffew at 19:55, 03 January 2007 | Report This Post


RE: United We Are

L: damn i'm good! Made me boo. Nuff said. sp; What the fuck? ... More

Posted by Ripper at 19:03, 29 December 2006 | Report This Post


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