While the film United 93 has opened to generally good reviews, there appears to be some pouting among many critics that there was no “cathartic moment” of release and that the film offers viewers little more than a “thrill ride” with little in the way of context or judgement.
It is the nature of criticism to find fault although some critics fall so in love with the sound of their own cynical, scratchy voice that their critiques are little more than lame attempts at being contrary. Critics by and large are also a notoriously jaded lot and films that purport to show something as emotionally charged as September 11 almost by definition fail to live up to their expectations.
That said, here are a scattering of reviews from several different sources.
BRIAN LOWRY IN VARIETY
Taut, visceral and predictably gut-wrenching, “United 93,” Paul GreengrassPaul Greengrass’ already much-debated look at Sept. 11, trades in some emotional impact for authenticity, capturing the overwhelming sense of chaos surrounding that day’s harrowing events. The result is a tense, documentary-style drama that methodically builds a sense of dread despite the preordained outcome. While media attention has focused on reaction to the movie’s trailer, strong ratings for earlier Flight 93 TV projects suggest there will be considerable curiosity, morbid or otherwise, about “United 93” that should translate into robust box office.
KIRK HONEYCUTT,< em> HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
In years to come, United 93 may enter our mythology in ways unimaginable. But for now, we have a starting point. “United 93” is a sincere attempt to pull together the known facts and guesses at the emotional truths as best anyone can. Then, in the movie’s final moments, the impact of the heroism aboard United 93 becomes startlingly clear.
MANOHLA DARGIS, NEW YORK TIMES
In its vivid details and especially its narrative pacing, the account of the United 93 hijacking in the 9/11 report reads like a nail-biter, something cooked up by Sebastian Junger. Drawing on different sources, including the report and family members, Mr. Greengrass follows the same trajectory as the report, with most of the screen time devoted to the period between takeoff and the excruciating moments before the plane crashed. The film carries the standard caution that it is “a creative work based on fact,” yet Mr. Greengrass’s use of nonfiction tropes, like the jagged camerawork and the rushed, overlapping shards of naturalistic dialogue, invests his storytelling with a visceral, combat-zone verisimilitude. And yet at the same time, beat for beat, the whole thing plays out very much according to the Hollywood playbook.
LISA SCHWARZBAUM, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Movies are the perfect medium for this exercise in gratitude â€” they always have been, with the screen so big and the audience so huddled together. And the world has never felt more precarious, or the distinctions between the lucky and the unlucky more tenuous, than they did on the day the World Trade Center fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and one Boeing 757 crashed near Shanksville, Pa., diverted by doomed passengers who died yanking control away from their captors’ hands.
DAVID ANSEN, NEWSWEEK
“United 93” is a memorial built of shattering, indelible images. This is first-rate, visceral filmmaking, no question: taut, watchful, free of false histrionics, as observant of the fear in the young terrorists’ eyes as the hysteria in the passenger cabin, and smart enough to know this material doesn’t need to be sensationalized or sentimentalized. Wisely, Greengrass has avoided casting recognizable faces, and many of the flight controllers are played by the people who were actually on the job that day, including FAA national operations officer Ben Sliney. Though you know the outcome, you can’t help hoping (as you would at any thriller) that things will turn out differently, that the military will intervene, that the president will be found, that someone will define the rules of engagement.
ANN HORNADAY, WASHINGTON POST
Ambivalence seems to be a painfully inadequate, mewling response to the courage of United 93’s passengers who, according to Hemingway’s definition of the term, acted not in fearlessness but despite their fear. This is a film that demands a different vocabulary, one that conveys both misgivings about our need for these fetishistic cinematic rituals, and admiration for the discipline and dignity with which an artist has brought the incomprehensible into lucid and uncompromising focus.
“United 93” is a great movie, and I hated every minute of it.
RON ROSENBAUM, SLATE.COM
But is the fable of Flight 93 the recompense that it’s been built up to be? Does what happened on Flight 93 represent a triumph of the human spirit, a microcosmic model and portent of the ultimate victory of enlightenment civilization over theocratic savagery, as the prerelease publicity about the new film insists? Or is the story of United Flight 93 a different kind of portent, not “the DNA of our times,” but rather the RIP?