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United 93, Paul Greengrass (2006)

A great movie to reference when wondering what art’s relationship to history is supposed to be or can be. This is essentially a re-creation of the morning of 9-11, with a particular focus on the plane that passengers forced down over Pennsylvania once they realized what was happening. The question is, do we require a re-creation of that morning? Greengrass is careful not to let the people in the movie become characters; he doesn’t want this to be a narrative. That makes sense to me. I always feel like I’m being sold a bill of goods when artists try to make a narrative out of history. But I’m not so sure I like this either. We’re presented with an (apparently) raw slab of historical actuality, but to what end? Didn’t we already experience it? Is there some value in allowing Greengrass to put us in the cabin with those doomed passengers, in the control tower with those horrified officials, in the hotel room of the terrorists as they get dressed and pack their boxcutters in their briefcases? What is the nature of that value? Strange movie-going experience. I don’t have complaints or praise, really, just questions.

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