United 93 (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Greengrass|
|Produced by||Paul Greengrass
|Written by||Paul Greengrass|
David Alan Basche
|Music by||John Powell|
|Editing by||Clare Douglas
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures
United International Pictures
Buena Vista International
|Running time||111 minutes|
United 93 is a 2006 film written, co-produced, and directed by Paul Greengrass that chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked during the September 11 attacks. The film attempts to recount with as much veracity as possible (there is a disclaimer that some imagination had to be used) and in real time (from the flight's takeoff) what has come to be known in the United States as an iconic moment. According to the filmmakers, the film was made with the cooperation of many of the passengers' families (though there are some notable exceptions).
United 93 premiered on April 26, 2006 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, a festival founded to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking center and to contribute towards the long-term recovery of Lower Manhattan. Several family members of the passengers aboard the flight attended the premiere to show their support. United 93 was later parodied by the short United 300.
The film opened nationwide in North America on April 28, 2006. Ten percent of the gross from the three-day opening weekend was promised toward a donation to create a memorial for the victims of Flight 93. United 93 grossed $31.4 million in the United States, and $76.2 million worldwide.
Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, hijackers Ahmed al-Nami and Ahmed al-Haznawi are praying in their hotel room, United 93's skyjacking ringleader Ziad Jarrah reading the Quran, and Saeed al-Ghamdi shaving. The four then leave for Newark International Airport. At the airport, the crew and passengers board United Airlines Flight 93. Shortly after boarding, and the safety briefing, Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes because of the high volume of traffic. The three other soon to be hijacked flights, American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, and American Airlines Flight 77 take off at other airports.
Air traffic controllers monitoring all current flights determine that American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 from Boston's Logan International Airport has taken a turn toward New York City. Shortly after, Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, although the air traffic controllers do not immediately realize what has happened. About 20 minutes earlier, a tape recording was made of Mohamed Atta's line "We have some planes, just stay quiet and you'll be okay. We are returning to the airport."
Meanwhile, United Airlines Flight 175, another Boeing 767, also from Boston, is also hijacked, and begins to descend and turn toward New York City as well. Air traffic controllers then realize they are dealing with multiple hijackings. American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 is also hijacked. The air traffic controllers and Air Force watch as Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on live television, reported by CNN.
United Airlines Flight 93 reaches its cruising altitude about the same time that Flight 175 crashes. The pilots of Flight 93 receive a message, Beware cockpit intrusion. Two a/c hit WTC. The terrorists on Flight 93 argue about when to begin their operation. At 9:28 AM, after Ahmed al-Haznawi assembles a fake bomb, the other three hijackers wrestle their way into the cockpit, holding off the flight attendants, herding the passengers to the back of the plane, and then killing the pilots Jason Dahl, and LeRoy Homer, Jr.. The hijacker Ziad Jarrah tries to tell the passengers to Keep remaining sitting, we have a bomb on board. So sit. He accidentally transmits this and another message to Cleveland Air Traffic Control, which he realises later, turning off Flight 93's transponder.
Flight 93 turns towards D.C. while FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney decides to shut down all airspace in the United States and ground every flight. By this time, Flight 77 has crashed into the Pentagon.
The passengers on Flight 93 begin making phone calls to family through the on-board GTE Airfone system. After hearing that planes have crashed into the WTC and the Pentagon, they realize that if they do nothing they will also die, and eventually elect to storm the cockpit and retake the plane using whatever makeshift weapons they can. They wait for the right moment, as the hijackers eventually realise the passengers are thinking of taking back the plane. One of the hijackers asks Jarrah how much time they may have left, and he says 20 minutes. The hijacker responds with We don't have twenty minutes! This turns out to be all but false, as the passengers begin the revolt.
After Haznawi is beaten down and killed, Ahmed al-Nami warns Ziad Jarrah and Saeed al-Ghamdi in the cockpit of the passenger's revolt, and attempts to hold off the advancing passengers with a food cart, pepper spray, and a fire extinguisher; he too is soon overwhelmed and is killed by having his neck snapped.
Ziad Jarrah shakes the plane violently but the passengers manage to enter the cockpit; however, as they attempt to gain control, the plane plummets into an upside down nosedive. Passengers are heard screaming, wind is heard, and hands are seen grappling for the yoke. The film ends as the plane nears the ground, and the screen blacks out as the plane hits the ground.
- Khalid Abdalla as Ziad Jarrah
- Christian Clemenson as Tom Burnett
- David Alan Basche as Todd Beamer
- Sarmed al-Samarrai as Saeed al-Ghamdi
- Omar Berdouni as Ahmed al-Haznawi
- Jamie Harding as Ahmed al-Nami
- J.J. Johnson as Captain Jason Dahl
- Gary Commock as First Officer LeRoy Homer Jr.
- Nancy McDoniel as Lorraine G. Bay
- Trish Gates as Sandra Bradshaw
- Starla Benford as Wanda Anita Green
- Opal Alladin as CeeCee Lyles
- Polly Adams as Deborah Welsh
- Erich Redman as Christian Adams
- Simon Poland as Alan Anthony Beaven
- Cheyenne Jackson as Mark Bingham
- Trieste Kelly Dunn as Deora Frances Bodley
- Jodie Lynne McClintock as Marion R. Britton
- Richard Bekins as William Joseph Cashman
- Marceline Hugot as Georgine Rose Corrigan
- Michael J. Reynolds as Patrick Joseph Driscoll
- Rebecca Schull as Patricia Cushing
- Ray Charleson as Joseph DeLuca
- John Rothman as Edward P. Felt
- Denny Dillon as Colleen Fraser
- Susan Blommaert as Jane Folger
- Peter Marinker as Andrew Garcia
- Peter Hermann as Jeremy Glick
- Tara Hugo as Kristin White Gould
- Kate Jennings Grant as Lauren Grandcolas
- David Rasche as Donald Freeman Greene
- Lorna Dallas as Linda Gronlund
- Daniel Sauli as Richard Guadagno
- Masato Kamo as Toshiya Kuge (久下 季哉)
- Libby Morris as Hilda Marcin
- Liza Colón-Zayas as Waleska Martinez
- Olivia Thirlby as Nicole Carol Miller
- Corey Johnson as Louis J. Nacke, II
- Tom O'Rourke as Donald Peterson
- Becky London as Jean Headley Peterson
- Chip Zien as Mark Rothenberg
- Leigh Zimmerman as Christine Snyder
- Joe Jamrog as John Talignani
- Chloe Sirene as Honor Elizabeth Wainio
- John Kaplun as Air Traffic Controller (Self)
The film was the first Hollywood feature to draw its narrative directly from the September 11, 2001 attacks. Passengers were portrayed in the film mostly by professional, but relatively unknown, actors (Tom Burnett, for instance, is played by Christian Clemenson, who has since appeared on Boston Legal and CSI: Miami). The roles of one of the flight attendants, the two pilots, and many other airline personnel were filled by actual airline employees. Some participants in the real-life events play themselves, notably FAA operations manager Ben Sliney.
The dialogue, which was mostly improvised during rehearsals Greengrass held with the cast, was based on face-to-face interviews between actors and families of those they portray. Almost none of the passengers in the film are referred to by their names. Their identities remain anonymous, emphasizing the group effort over any individual heroics (and also portraying the fact that strangers on an airplane would not know one another's names). Much of the dialogue uses technical authenticity rather than theatrical embellishments, such as talk about if a plane has "Squawked 7500." During production, the actors playing the crew and the passengers of the flight were put in separate hotels from the actors portraying the hijackers, even eating their meals separately, ostensibly to create an air of antagonism in the film between the two groups.
Filming took place on a 20-year-old reclaimed Boeing 757, formerly operated by MyTravel Airways, at Pinewood Studios near London from October until December 2005. The cockpit was built by Flightdeck solutions. The location was chosen both for its financial incentives and to shield actors from unwanted public scrutiny they might have received in the U.S. Action was filmed with handheld cameras, chosen for their versatility on the close-quarter sets and to create a sense of immediacy. Exterior airport sequences were shot on location at Newark Liberty International Airport, while interiors were shot back in England at London Stansted Airport. A few scenes were also shot in Washington, D.C. and Boston. In addition, an opening sequence set in Afghanistan was shot in Morocco, but it was cut from the film before release.
The title was changed from Flight 93 to United 93 in March 2006, to differentiate it from the A&E TV film. Shortly thereafter, the film was given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America for "language, and some intense sequences of terror and violence." Universal Pictures appealed this rating, but it was rejected. The film was released in U.S. cinemas on April 28, 2006. It opened second in the weekend box office behind RV, but it netted a slightly higher per-screen average.
Initial screenings ended with the closing credits line "America's War on Terror had begun." This was replaced in the release version with '"Dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001."
After the trailers for the film began circulating in cinemas, there were calls for Universal Pictures to pull them, due to the upset and surprise caused to some audience members. One theatre in Manhattan pulled the trailer after audience complaints.
The Iraqi-born, London-based actor Sarmed al-Samarrai, who plays a hijacker in the film, was reportedly denied a visa by United States immigration authorities when he applied to visit New York City to attend the premiere, despite having already been granted asylum in the United Kingdom since the 1990s. The reason reported to have been given was that he had once been a conscripted member of the Iraqi Army — although this was also the grounds for his refugee status after his desertion in 1993. Other sources say that he applied late for his visa and that it was not denied.
Historical background 
The real United Airlines Flight 93 was a Boeing 757-222 flight that regularly flew from Newark International Airport (now known as Newark Liberty International Airport) in Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. On September 11, 2001, the aircraft on the flight was one of the four planes hijacked as part of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, possibly intended to crash into and destroy the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. It was the only plane out of all four hijacked that did not reach its intended target, instead crashing in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, about 150 miles northwest of Washington.
The cockpit voice recorder tape from United Flight 93 has never been made public; however the transcript was made public after the film was completed, shedding more light on what actually happened in the final 30 minutes before the plane crashed. In some parts, it may contradict the choices made by the filmmaker in terms of some dialogue and specific aspects of the event. For example, the pilots, Jason Dahl and LeRoy Homer, are shown in the film to be killed by the terrorists immediately as they are hijacking the plane. Some statements made by the terrorists in the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder tape, as well as moans heard in the background inside the cockpit, raised doubts that both pilots were indeed dead before the plane crashed; however, other documentary evidence from the 9/11 Commission Report indicated that at least one passenger reported in a cell phone call seeing two bodies, possibly the pilots, lying dead on the floor outside the cockpit after the hijacking.
There is also no evidence Haznawi or al-Nami were killed by the passengers. The cause of death for the four hijackers was listed as suicide.
Portrayal of Christian Adams 
The film has been criticized for its portrayal of German passenger Christian Adams. Of all passengers on the plane, only Adams is portrayed as counseling appeasement. Sunday Times critic Cosmo Landesman mused, "Surely one of the passengers didn't phone home to point out that there was a cowardly German on board who wanted to give in?" Critic John Harris suggested in a Guardian blog, "there will surely be all kinds of cries about old European surrender monkeys, the United States' contrasting backbone etc." The Guardian reports that Silke Adams, Adams's widow, is "believed to have refused to cooperate on the film, saying that the memory of her husband's death was still too raw" and states that "so far there is no evidence to suggest that Christian Adams did not support the other passengers, or refused to storm the cockpit."
Critical response 
United 93 was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2006. Roger Ebert, Michael Medved, Peter Travers, and James Berardinelli all awarded it with four stars. It was termed 'one of the most moving films of the year' by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone, and achieved an average 91% rating from the Web site Rotten Tomatoes, another 90% from Metacritic and a 95% from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. "United 93" also has one of the longest consensuses on Rotten Tomatoes. United 93 appeared on 214 critic's Top-10 lists (the third most of any 2006 film), and was ranked #1 on 47 lists (the most of any 2006 film). At the website Movie City News, which ranks 250 critics lists and awards point values for list-placement, United 93 ranks as the #1 movie of 2006 with a score of 917.5 points. On Metacritic, the film appears on 39 US top ten lists, more than any other 2006 film on the site, although the 2006 film with the highest average score on the site is Army of Shadows even though the film was made in 1969.
US Top ten lists 
United 93 received numerous awards and nominations from film critics and guilds. Ultimately, the film received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, at the 79th Academy Awards and 6 BAFTA nominations, including Best British Film, at the 60th British Academy Film Awards winning two for Best Director and Best Film Editing.
|List of awards and nominations|
Home media 
- Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass
- United 93: The Families and the Film (videos of each family meeting the actor who plays their lost loved one)
- Memorial Pages
The 2-disc edition included the above special features plus the following:
- Featurette: Chasing Planes-Witnesses to 9/11.
The 1-disc editions are still being produced and shipped into stores, but the special limited edition is now only available online.
Blu-ray Disc 
A Blu-ray Disc version was released on September 6, 2011. Most of the supplementary material is ported over from the 2-disc DVD Special Limited Edition release, and includes:
- Feature commentary with Paul Greengrass
- United 93: The families and the film
- Chasing Planes — Witnesses to 9/11
- Memorial pages
- Twin Towers featurette
- Flight 93 National Memorial featurette
- Universal's "Pocket Blu" enhancement (requires mobile device)
See also 
- List of cultural references to the September 11 attacks
- The 9/11 Commission Report
- The Flight that Fought Back
- Flight 93, television film
- World Trade Center, film
- I Missed Flight 93
- Allen Barra "Historical Film: It's Time to See a Movie We Couldn't Bear to Go To" American Heritage, Nov./Dec. 2006.
- Four Years On, a Cabin's-Eye View of 9/11 January 1, 2006 New York Times article
- September 11 plane drama to open NY film festival March 29, 2006 Reuters article
- A Dark Day Revisited April 10, Newsweek
- Box Office mojo — United 93
- The Day They Hijacked America April 28, 2006 The Guardian
- MPAA Film Ratings
- "A Flight to Remember", April 18, 2006 The Village Voice
-  April 4, 2006, New York Times
- 9/11 film actor refused visa for US premiere April 21, 2006 The Times
- America bars Iraqi immigrant who played hijacker in September 11 film April 22, 2006 The Independent On Sunday
- United Flight 93 Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript. "Some point to the comment made at 9:45:25 to indicate doubt that both pilots were dead." Accessed December 10, 2006
- United Flight 93 Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript. "There are several unattributed groans recorded at 9:58, before the passenger assault on the cockpit apparently began." Accessed December 10, 2006
- The 9/11 Commission Report, Page 13, paragraph 2. Accessed December 10, 2006
- "A terrifying flight back in time" June 04, 2006 The Times
- Skating on thin air May 25, 2006 http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk, accessed June 11, 2006
- United 93 'surrender monkey' defends role in film The Guardian (June 7, 2006)
- Best of 2006 « CriticsTop10
- 2006 Overall Critic's Top 20 — Movie City News
- 2006 Overall Critics Choice Results Discussion — The Hot Button
- 2006 Overall Critics Choice Chart — Movie City News
- "Metacritic: 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Best Reviewed Film of 2006 — Metacritic
- United 93 Awards and Nominations at IMDB
- United 93 Awards and Nominations at Movie City News
- Official website
- United 93 at AllRovi
- United 93 at the Internet Movie Database
- United 93 at Rotten Tomatoes
- United 93 at Metacritic
- German 9/11 Victim Defamed in 'United 93 (Review focusing on the stereotyping and politics)
- Hijacking the Hijacking, the problem with the United 93 films By Ron Rosenbaum, on Slate.com
- Investigating 'United 93': Researching and Honoring a Catastrophe: Part I by Uri Lessing
- Investigating 'United 93': Researching and Honoring a Catastrophe: Part II by Uri Lessing
- United 93 at Box Office Mojo