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|
|Edited by||Clare Douglas
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures
United International Pictures (International)
|Box office||$76.3 million|
United 93 is a 2006 drama 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 of 2001. 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 a critical moment. According to the filmmakers, the film was made with the cooperation of all of the passengers' families.
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.
The film opened in North America on April 28, 2006 to unanimous critical acclaim. Ten percent of the gross from the three-day opening weekend was promised toward a donation to create a memorial for the Flight 93 victims. United 93 grossed $31.4 million in the United States, and $76.3 million worldwide.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, four al-Qaeda terrorists Ziad Jarrah, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Ahmed al-Haznawi pray in their New York hotel rooms before their upcoming suicide attack aboard United Airlines Flight 93. The quartet arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport passing through security without incident and wait at the gate with their future victims including Tom Burnett, Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and Honor Elizabeth Wainio. Mark Bingham narrowly arrives to board the doomed flight. After 40 minutes of delay due to traffic the plane takes off bound for San Francisco, with all 40 passengers and 4 terrorists on board.
Meanwhile, newly promoted FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney is in a meeting when it is reported that American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles has been hijacked after Mohamed Atta is overheard on the radio saying, "We have some planes". Minutes later the aircraft crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Much to Ben and his staff's horror, they learn that a second flight United Airlines Flight 175 also from Boston to Los Angeles, has been hijacked and after New York air traffic controllers attempt to contact the aircraft, it is seen live on CNN plowing into the South Tower of the World Trade Centre as reported that day. Ben and his staff realise they are dealing with several hijackings and orders the military to be on the lookout for American Airlines Flight 77, which is reported missing and presumed to have also been hijacked.
As United 93 reaches cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, an impatient Ahmed al-Nami demands to know from Jarrah why they are not yet hijacking the plane but Jarrah insists the time isn't right. After al-Haznawi returns from the lavatory wearing an artificial bomb around his torso, al-Ghamdi makes the first move and grabs hold of flight attendant Debbie Welsh at knifepoint. After a passenger is stabbed and the "bomb" is revealed causing mass panic among passengers, al-Nami & al-Haznawi force the first class passengers to the back of the plane. Meanwhile Jarrah and al-Ghamdi threaten Debbie and demand they be let into the cockpit, and despite the hijackers claims that no one will be hurt, both pilots as well as Debbie are stabbed to death allowing Jarrah to take over control as pilot.
Back on the ground Ben Sliney, still debating on what to do about the unfolding disaster, is in shock when American 77 crashes into the Pentagon and comes to a decision that all aircraft be grounded and planes are not to enter or leave US airspace until further notice.
Aboard United 93, Jarrah turns the plane, making some frightened passengers believe they are heading to an airport but they are in fact on course for Washington, D.C. After flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw notices the dead bodies of Debbie and the pilots, Jarrah flying at low altitude, and passengers learning from family members via airphone of the earlier attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon by hijacked aircraft, they conclude that their plane will too be used as a missile and decide to take action organizing a revolt against the hijackers, with passenger Donald Freeman Greene having had experience in flying.
After passengers arm themselves, pray and make final phone calls to loved ones, the group rush forward, beginning their counterattack. As al-Haznawi is overpowered by the passengers, he is killed by Mark Bingham who crushes Ahmed Al-Haznawi's skull with a fire extinguisher. Seeing this, al-Nami alerts Jarrah and al-Ghamdi in the cockpit of the ongoing assault. Jarrah shakes the plane violently to throw the passengers off balance, while al-Nami attempts hold off the advancing passengers using the food cart, pepper spray and fire extinguisher. Despite his vain attempts to delay the passengers, he too is overpowered and killed after having his neck snapped by Jeremy Glick. Seeing the passengers getting nearer, al-Ghamdi orders Jarrah to crash the plane, knowing they'll never reach their intended target. The passengers then breach the cockpit with the food cart, finally gain entrance into the cockpit, and battle both hijackers over the controls. As the passengers and hijackers struggle for control of the yoke, the plane plummets into a nosedive and goes upside down, crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and killing everyone on board.
The film was the first Hollywood feature to draw its narrative directly from the September 11 attacks of 2001. 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 relatives 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 portraying the fact that strangers on an airplane would not know each other's names). Much of the dialogue uses technical authenticity rather than theatrical embellishments, such as talk about whether a plane has "Squawked 7500."
During production, the actors playing the flight's crew and passengers were lodged in separate hotels from the actors portraying the hijackers, and even ate their meals separately, ostensibly to create an air of antagonism in the film between the two groups.
Filming took place from October until December 2005, on a 20-year-old reclaimed Boeing 757 formerly operated by MyTravel Airways, at Pinewood Studios near London. 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 United States. Action was filmed with handheld cameras, chosen for their versatility on the close-quarters 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. Additionally, 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 movie Flight 93. 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' appeal of this rating was rejected. The film was released in the United States cinemas on April 28, 2006 and 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 trailers for the film began circulating in cinemas, there were calls for Universal Studios to pull them, due to the upset and surprise caused to some audience members. Universal did not heed that call, although 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.
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 that 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 of all four hijacked that did not reach its intended target; instead, it crashed in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, about 150 miles (ca 240 km) 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. Some parts may contradict the filmmaker's choices 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 cockpit voice recorder transcript, as well as moans heard in the background inside the cockpit, raised doubts that both pilots were dead before the plane crashed; however, other documentary evidence from the 9/11 Commission Report indicates 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 some controversy between some of the family members of the passengers and the investigative officials as to whether the passengers managed to breach the cockpit before the plane crashed. The 9/11 Commission Report concluded that "the hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them". However, many of the passengers' family members, having heard the audio recordings, believe that the passengers did breach the cockpit and struggled with the hijackers for control of the yoke (which the movie depicts).
Portrayal of Christian Adams
The film has been criticized for its portrayal of German passenger Christian Adams, who is the only passenger portrayed as counseling appeasement, despite the absence of any evidence that he did so. It was also reported that Adams' widow did not cooperate with the filmmakers because it was too painful. Erich Redman, who portrayed Adams in the film, said he did not intend to portray Adams as cowardly but as a man who "never made rash decisions and everything he did was always well-considered."
United 93 was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2006. James Berardinelli, Roger Ebert, Michael Medved, and Peter Travers all awarded it four stars on their rating scales, with Ebert calling the film "masterful and heartbreaking" and saying that it "does honor to the memory of the victims." Travers termed it "one of the most moving films of the year", in Rolling Stone.
The film holds a 91% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 203 reviews, with the consensus: "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."
The film also has a score of 90 on Metacritic, where the film appears on 39 critics' top 10 lists, more than any other 2006 film on the site, (although the 2006 film with the highest average score on the site is the re-released 1969 film Army of Shadows). The film was ranked #1 on 47 lists (the most of any 2006 film).
Top 10 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 six BAFTA Award 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|
United 93 was released to DVD on September 5, 2006, in both widescreen and fullscreen. Also released was a 2-disc Special Limited Edition in widescreen. A Blu-ray Disc version was released on September 6, 2011. A second Blu-ray release from Universal Studios for the film was released on June 5, 2012 as a part of Universal's Universal 100th Anniversary releases. This version included the same Blu-ray Disc (same transfer and same bonus features) found in the first 2011 release in addition to a DVD and digital copy included in the pack with a brand-new sleeve that was not available with the previous release. Both Blu-ray Disc sets for the film are region free.
- List of cultural references to the September 11 attacks
- Flight 93 (disambiguation)
- The 9/11 Commission Report (film)
- United 300
- World Trade Center (film)
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- "United 93 (2006)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. July 6, 2006. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Barra, Allen. "Historical Film: It's Time to See a Movie We Couldn't Bear to Go To". American Heritage, November/December 2006.
- Heath, Iver (January 1, 2006). "Four Years On, a Cabin's-Eye View of 9/11". New York Times.
- (March 29, 2006). "September 11 plane drama to open NY film festival"[permanent dead link]. Reuters article.
- (April 10, 20??). "A Dark Day Revisited". Newsweek.
- Boorstin, Julia (January 8, 2006). "MSNBC". MSN.com. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Burkeman, Oliver (April 28, 2006). "The Day They Hijacked America". The Guardian.
- "Director's commentary". United 93 (Blu-ray ed.).
- "MPAA Film Ratings". MPAA.org. Archived from the original on May 18, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- Lim, Dennis (April 18, 2006). "A Flight to Remember" Archived April 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.. The Village Voice.
- Waxman, Sharon (April 4, 2006). "Universal Will Not Pull United 93 Trailer, Despite Criticism". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
- (April 21, 2006). "9/11 film actor refused visa for US premiere". The Times.
- Judd, Terri (April 22, 2006). "America bars Iraqi immigrant who played hijacker in September 11 film". 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." Retrieved 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." Retrieved December 10, 2006.
- "The 9/11 Commission Report" Archived December 6, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., page 13, paragraph 2. Retrieved December 10, 2006.
- "Families of Passengers Question Theory That Hijackers Crashed Flight 93". Foxnews.com. Associated Press. August 8, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
- Emanuel, Mike; Liza Porteus and The Associated Press (April 13, 2006). "Flight 93 Hijacker: 'We Have a Bomb on Board'". Fox News. Retrieved 10 September 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- "Wives of Passengers on Flight 93". ABC News. September 18, 2001. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- "United 93 actor defends portrayal". BBC.co.uk.
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- "United 93 (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- "2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2008.
- "Best Reviewed Film of 2006". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- http://www.avmaroc.com/videos/united+airlines-cLiPUfHP1_DIie0.html[permanent dead link]
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- "2006 Overall Critics Choice Results Discussion". The Hot Button. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- "The 2006 Top Tens". Movie City News. January 6, 2007. Archived from the original on January 27, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- "United 93 Awards and Nominations". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved February 19, 2015.
- "The Awards Scoreboard". Movie City News. Archived from the original on January 22, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- "United 93 Blu-ray Announced and Detailed". High-Def Digest. Internet Brands, Inc. May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
- "United 93 Universal 100th Anniversary edition". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
- Greengrass, Paul (2006). United 93: The Shooting Script. Newmarket Shooting Script. New York: Newmarket Press. ISBN 978-1557047526.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: United 93 (film)|
- Official website
- United 93 at the Internet Movie Database
- United 93 at Rotten Tomatoes
- United 93 at Metacritic
- United 93 at Box Office Mojo
- United 93 at ReelFaces
- United 93 at the Wayback Machine (archived January 10, 2006)
- 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
- Interview with Andrew Bernstein
- 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