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United 93 (2006)

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Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Director Paul Greengrass Rating:7.6/10 (9 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by The Cubist on September 5th, 2006:Find all reviews by The Cubist
Greengrass has a tendency to speak slowly and ponderously but is very articulate when he explains his intentions for a given scene or talks about the events of that day. He points out that several of the air traffic controllers in the movie are the actual people who were working on 9/11. Greengrass tends to spend a little too much time talking about “the systems” that were in place on that day and how they broke down (in terms of communication) because what was happening was so unimaginable. He gets a little pretentious at times but does speak knowledgably about the film.
Reviewed by stuartbannerman on July 13th, 2007:Find all reviews by stuartbannerman
As Cubist has already said. Paul can sound a little pretencious at times but i dare say he was treading on very careful ground when it came to this film and its DVD extras. Sept 11 is still a touchy subject and one wrong word and he will get so much bad press.
This commentary is decent enough and it does sound like Paul is following the official story of Sept 11 so dont expect opinions and conspiracy banter.

I found this commentary to be interesting. Its what i call a good but not fantastic commentary track.
Reviewed by Bickle, T. on May 26th, 2009:Find all reviews by Bickle, T.
I agree with the other posts, but I did find Greengrass's voice a soothing one over this extremely emotional film. Listening to him speak reminds you of how great a job he did making the movie.
Reviewed by Uniblab on January 15th, 2010:Find all reviews by Uniblab
Greengrass' style of commentary seems very sincere and passionate from his part, but is a true nightmare for the listener. There are commentators that distract the listener with digressions, but in the case of a Greengrass track in general and this one in particular, the whole commentary looks like one big unified digression, with a lot of narration of scenes with explanations about what's happening in them...
Reviewed by Jay Olie Espy on September 11th, 2010:Find all reviews by Jay Olie Espy
Paul Greengrass’s commentary to his film can be split into halves: The first is discussion about the making of the film, followed by his own assessment of what the film is about and what he tried to accomplish. He alternates between the two where he sees it fit. Greengrass’s comments seem spontaneous, but what he has to say is, nonetheless, informative.

The two main points Greengrass gets across about the making of the film is the use of nonprofessional actors and real-time shooting. He felt that the tragedy of 9/11 belonged to everyone. He wanted to use non-recognizable actors, a good many of them being real flight attendants, pilots, and air traffic controllers. Whenever possible he cast air traffic controllers and military personnel (he points them out in the commentary) who were involved on the U.S. side of 9/11, most notably is Ben Silney, who plays himself and has a major role in the film. Greengrass commends the nonprofessional actors for their “brilliant” performance because they brought an authentic sense of “disbelief and foreboding” to the screen. Because the scenes in the air traffic control room and the military base were shot in real time according to how the news of the events unfolded, those nonprofessional actors who worked 9/11 were, in many ways, reliving it.

Since most of us in the audience know in a general sense how the events of 9/11 unfolded and what the outcome will be, this docudrama seems to be straightforward in its telling. And yet, the film is filtered through the director’s imagining from his interviews of the United 93 Passengers’ families and the “9/11 Commission Report,” which Greengrass refers to as his reference “bible.” First off, he uses two major visual metaphors in the film: the New York skyline is representative of modernity, which is assaulted by the medievalism of the hijacker’s selective beliefs (Greengrass points out that the hijackings are also a metaphor of a “hijacking of [the Islamic] religion”). Secondly, what goes on in the air traffic control room and the military base is a metaphor for the breaking down of systems, which were running so smoothly just hours before the attacks. With the breakdown of the systems comes the breakdown in communication, all of them due, according to Greengrass, to the disbelief and incomprehension of the events occurring. “Our modern life is about systems,” says Greengrass, “and those systems were overwhelmed on 9/11.” Thus, systems and life are two fragile things.

What Greengrass tries to accomplish in UNITED 93 is not a film about 9/11, but rather the post-9/11 world. The hijackers of United 93 were delayed 40 minutes throwing them off schedule and out of sync from the other coordinated attacks. Slowly, but eventually, both the passengers and hijackers found out about the other planes hitting their targets, so in a way they inherited the post-9/11 world. The passengers faced the same choices before the rest of America would: “What are we going to do about it? What can we do about it?” The film then shows, in an imagined scenario drawn from interviews, the courage of the passengers who realized they were on their own, yet didn’t “duck away.”

As I write this review, the average rating for this commentary is 5.2 and understandably so. Greengrass voice lulls. The commentary seems improvised to the point where he repeats his viewpoints, and, at one point toward the end of the film, he even says, “There’s nothing much else for me to say from here” (even though he doesn’t really stop talking). And according to reviews of other Greengrass commentaries, he seems not to be the most engaging director to lay down tracks. Nonetheless, I believe this commentary still offers up a wealth of information and insight to the film, and certainly much more than what a 5.2 rating represents. I recommend this commentary to 9/11 history enthusiasts.