I saw United 93 on Saturday night. It was the single most powerful film I’ve seen in my life. The film lacks any element of fiction. I didn’t feel as though I was being told a story, so much as I felt that I was a ghost given permission to observe events at the FAA, NORAD, and onboard United 93.
What I observed was the incredible vulnerability of human systems confronted by something new, the tenuousness of authority in the face of relentless second-guessing by media and legal professionals, and the willingness of people to keep working in the most impossible situations.
The recreation of events on the flight are super-realistic. We only get one side of phone calls. We see the rapid formation of a plan by men who know only that they have to do something and that failure will be no worse than a death sentence 95% already delivered. By the time the passengers move against the attackers you are so keyed up and identify so fully with their plight, you move with them. I could almost smell the recycled air of the cabin.
The closest I can come to explaining the experience is to invoke the holodeck of Star Trek fame. I felt as though I had walked into a holodeck taking me through September 11 and United Flight 93. I couldn’t help, but I could feel the emotions and take in the atmosphere.
When the passengers finally move against their captors, I felt a dam break inside me and all the tension, fear, and anger racked my body as tears literally jumped out of my eyes. I knew no one in the theatre would notice because the other people were going through the same thing. When the credits came up, no one moved.
After a few moments, we recovered from our shock and walked from the theatre in a procession just as orderly as a funeral.
If a lot of people see this film (and I pray they will), there will no longer be much debate about Iraq or Iran. Wide recognition will dawn upon Americans that we are in uncharted territory and that something is exponentially better than nothing when facing an implacable foe. We need to churn up as many difficulties as possible so that our experience will be wide and we will never again display the innocence we did just a few Septembers ago.
No matter how much we wish it were not so and pretend it is not true when previous memories fail, we are violently reminded that there is evil in the world and that its practitioners are convinced of their rectitude.