United 93 is not a conventional Hollywood movie. And if you've already known the film is about the planes hijacked on 9/11, you might not be surprised so much that United 93 is not a usual motion picture. It is not a movie for everyone and it is not a "must see" film for cinema lovers. It is about a dreadful day in the lives of all people living in the United States, a day that has made actual a lot of important issues all over the World. But it is understandable if not everyone is interested in that day and a movie dedicated to its victims.
To start with, United 93 lacks any renowned actors. Obviously, this has been done on purpose. The director Paul Greengrass seems to have chosen less famous cast in order to present more trustworthily the tragic story of unprepared people and country. In addition, there are no leading actors or actresses and there are no characters standing out from the rest either.
We are not going to introduce the plot because United 93 seems in many ways closer to a documentary rather than being a standard feature film. The lack of celebrated actors easily helps this purpose but there is more to it than just the unknown cast. As we've already noted, there are no leads. There are no back stories of the characters. There is no character development. You pretty much know what will happen since you've already read or heard about it a thousand times. There is no finger pointing, no bad or good guys. It's like the director and you are just watching some events happening on the screen. In a way, they seem like they are really happening and sometimes like being in real time.
Speaking of United 93's quality in pure cinematic aspect, there are two directions we might take. If we take the "bad" one, we have to say that the plot is not so good. Sure, it is a real life story but that's why we rarely see movies based on such stories. Real life stories usually do not fit directly for the screen without some altering and polishing. When a film shows a strong documentary flavor, naturally the story lacks a lot in terms of a good plot. To go even further, if all those 9/11 tragic events had not actually happened, the movie would have been greatly criticized about its plot being a mess. Portraying events that everyone knows also makes a motion picture completely predictable. And that it is not the best film out there speaks also the fact United 93 has not shown any considerable box office success although depicting such important moments of the recent American history.
On the other hand, even if the plot is a mess and would have been quite inaccessible if being fictitious, knowing that it is about something real and well-known automatically clarifies what otherwise would have been rather obscure narrative. It's clear that Paul Greengrass has intentionally decided to make the movie this way, without adding some extra spice or surprises. He has directed the film quite well and cinematography work is just fine. And although the events are not surprising, United 93 is still interesting to watch.
So, in pure moviemaking aspect and not considering its documentary side, United 93 would have been just a well-executed film upon not such a good screenplay. But when the documentary value of the movie is considered, it gains some well-deserved credit with ease. And when it comes to the emotional side of United 93, the film wins an immediate advantage over regular feature films. If there has been an Academy Award for emotional impact, it surely would have gone to this movie in 2007. The film should have deeply touched almost every American citizen who has seen it along with many other people around the world while going once again through the tragic events of 9/11.
If you feel in a mood for watching intense portions of what has happened during that unfortunate day, United 93 is a film that may get your attention. If you think it has already been talked or written quite too much on that subject and you are not interested in those events (anymore), you may skip the movie without feeling unnecessary guilt.