In the Dark

Nobody’s Going to Help Us

United 93
Produced and distributed by Universal Pictures
Directed and written by Paul Greengrass

United 93 is the extraordinarily convincing faux-documentary of what might have happened aboard the fourth plane hijacked on September 11, 2001.  Flight 93 was the one that may have been headed for the Capitol in Washington, D.C., until its passengers stood up to their terrorist captors.  In the struggle that ensued, the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people aboard.

British director Paul Greengrass has chosen to film these events with an uninflected cinéma vérité style, apparently to avoid disaster-movie clichés.  Fortunately, he hasn’t entirely succeeded.  If he had, he might have diminished his film’s plausibility, for there is good reason to believe the doomed flight followed the disaster-film scenario exactingly on that sunny September morning.  Over the past 35 years, fictional films depicting terrorist hijackings have established the rules of the game.  When the terrorists make their move, passengers are to sit meekly in their seats until Arnold Schwarzenegger or Kurt Russell arrives to outfox the villains and save the day.  This is the scenario that seems to have been followed on the real Flight 93 until its last six minutes.  There can be no doubt the terrorists...

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