Much controversy over whether it is "too soon" to do a movie about 9/11. But if all such movies are crafted as well as United 93, then we needn't worry. Not to say that this is an easy film or a popcorn film to watch, mind you. (We had popcorn but got there early enough to eat it through the trailers -- it was lunchtime.)
This is a tremendous film. And not just because we all have such emotional baggage checked through 9/11. I mean, they did a superb job of crafting this movie. Some say this pseudo-documentary style is the only way it could work, not even five years later, but this is done in a classy way.
I was exceedingly impressed with the realism of the air traffic controllers and FAA Regional ATC personnel. Turns out many of those on duty during 9/11 played themselves. And they do a terrific job of showing the confusion amongst the multiple control centers and the uncertainty of which flights were hijacked. This particular unfolding of the story mirrors what I heard on WOOD-AM radio on my long drive to Kalamazoo that fine blue sky morning.
Early on we get an establishing shot from inside the Newark Airport tower, and in this large expanse of glass walls, we are shown that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are clearly visible to the tower crews.
The best historical movies like this are ones where you get so caught up in the story, you temporarily suspend your memories. In Apollo 13, you worry about whether they're going to make it, when of course they did. The swirl of Edwardian society plus class struggles sweep you up in Titanic and oops! there's that damned iceberg dead ahead -- we try willing the ship to turn enough to make a difference and of course it can't.
That's how good United 93 is. When you're not sure you can remember the flight numbers of the other three American and United flights as they rattle off one plane after another... when then recite the wrong information for a few minutes and you are left wondering if maybe you misremembered it... when you hope the Air Force can scramble the jets in time... when you sit through the last eight or nine minutes and hope the passengers' assault on the cockpit will succeed... Of course it doesn't. And yet it does.
Fade to black. A great movie.
TRAILERS: The Omen: Oh great, another remake, and it opens on 6-6-06; All The King's Men: Technically this is also a remake, I believe, but with such a cast, including Anthony Hopkins, James Ganolfini and KATE WINSLET, how can they go wrong with a story about Huey Long in Louisiana politics; Cars: Animated from Pixar Studios, cute and clever, should be a hit -- cutest part involved race cars and a pit crew made up of little Bobcat type mini-loader vehicles; The Breakup: Jennifer Anniston breaks up with some guy she's living with, but they continue to live in the same condo and work on trying to drive each other nuts. There's always the danger that we've just heard all the best lines in the trailer, but Jennifer Anniston is cute and I suspect this movie will draw well.
We decided to make this a double-feature night because (a) it was a long time since we'd been to Studio 28 and (b) we thought it best to not be bummed out all night after United 93. We were not going to follow it up with Mission Impossible III, so we decided to give Denzel Washington and this class act by Spike Lee a viewing.
While some people are upset that Spike Lee isn't making one of his superb social commentary films, there is actually no law that says Spike Lee can't make a bank robbery caper flick and just have fun. Besides, this is Spike Lee -- there's going to be social commentaries inserted here and there.
Denzel is such a fine actor, but he needs meat to work with. I was so pleased with his powerful presence in Remember the Titans and delightfully appalled at his nasty character in Training Day. Here, he's been given a couple of bad beats to saddle his character with and he runs with them. It is a mark of respect that I believe Spike Lee milks casting Willem Dafoe as Denzel's superior in the Mobile Command Center -- we expect Dafoe to be weird, quirky or evil, so we're expecting the same out of Dafoe's character here. But that's not what we get and I found that very effective.
Clive Owens is a man to watch -- he's beginning to show up everywhere and he does his damndest to make an interesting "bank robber" out of his character. And Christopher Plummer's small role is well done. But it is Jodie Foster playing against her decency type who comes out strongest in the supporting roles.
A very fine caper movie with a lot of twists and turns. Gee -- they still make films like this today?
TRAILERS: Apocalypto: Mel Gibson's Mayan movie; Poseidon: 2006's second remake of The Poseidon Adventure, the other was a TV movie, and again it's chock full of a big cast; Mission Impossible 3: Early reviews on MI:III indicate that the flash-bang gee-whiz factor is high, but forget about trying to follow a plot -- they forgot to budget for one. NOTE: The last two trailers were "tastefully" not shown before United 93.
NOTE: This entry has been sitting on my laptop for a while and finally posted on 8-10-06.