Monday, September 11, 2006.
By Chris Beaumont.
United 93 (Widescreen Edition).
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EXTRACT: "I would like to note that there is a separate English track for those viewers who are visually impaired. This is a wonderful inclusion where a female voice describes onscreen action between the lines of dialogue."
When I saw this on the big screen, earlier this year, I thought that I was ready for it. I thought that I had prepared myself enough to see it. I was wrong. I was greatly and deeply moved by what I saw on the screen.
I do not know how close this film is to reality. No one will ever know exactly what happened, what events led to the crash of United flight 93. However, what pieces we know, from phone calls and the black box, and whatever other sources are available, I have no problem believing that this is what happened.
United 93 is a difficult film to review, as it really isn't a complete film, in the traditional sense. There is no story to speak of. There is no beginning, it just starts. There is no end, just a stop to this chapter as the story is ongoing and the saga has not yet been completed. The film is a slice of life, a tragic and heroic moment in our history, one that will not be forgotten.
The film is presented in a fly on the wall manner. No side is taken, there are no political agendas. We are placed inside these events, not physically, but to bear historical witness. We are taken back in time to that fateful day and placed right there, to experience what they experienced, to see what they see.
Writer/director Paul Greengrass has delivered a powerful film. He has recreated a period of time to the best detail that he was able to manage. He has given us a film that pays tribute to the heroic passengers of flight 93. This is no Hollywood action film, this is no blockbuster. You will not find big name stars mugging for the camera, nor you will not see any hero moments or groundswell of music as a final heroic charge is mounted. The film feels authentic, and that is the best praise that I can give it. I feel that I know what happened, I feel that I have seen what happened, while intellectually know that I do not, sometimes the feeling is more important.
Watching it for the second time, in the privacy of my home, I did not have the same feeling of having that nearly healed wound ripped open that I felt while at the theater. I still felt many of the same effects I did then, but I felt more in control. Perhaps it was the ability to stop the film if I had to, or the ability to walk away, whatever the case I was more steeled to what was to come. There is something to be said about knowing the fate of these people, while they move around on the screen, completely unaware of what they were about to be faced with.
Video. The film is delivered in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. It looks much as I remembered it from the theater, the colors are a bit washed out and drained, they don't pop off the screen, and it looks very good. The coloring and handheld style gives an almost documentary feel to the film. Overall, the transfer looks fine.
Audio. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds fine. There is nothing to complain about here. I would like to note that there is a separate English track for those viewers who are visually impaired. This is a wonderful inclusion where a female voice describes onscreen action between the lines of dialogue. The only other film I can think of where I have seen this is The Passion of the Christ. I am sure there are more that have this type of track, but I have to say that I really like to see it included.
Extras. There are a few extras here.
United 93: The Families and the Film. This runs for nearly an hour and features interviews with many family members of those who were on the flight. It was wonderful to see, as these took place primarily prior to production. The families speak of their lost loved ones and their thoughts of the impending film. There are also meetings between the actors and the families of the person they are to portray. Finally, there was a screening of the film for the families prior to its wide release, along with some of the reactions afterwards. This is a wonderful feature, well worth spending time with.
Feature Commentary. This track is with the director, Paul Greengrass. His speaking is a little slow, but it is an interesting track where he discusses shot composition, the structure of the dialogue and the flow of information, and the efforts to authenticity. It is an interesting track.
Memorial Pages. This is a very nice inclusion. These are biographies for each of the passengers aboard the flight.
Bottomline. This is an amazing film. Everything feels genuine, and this DVD is a fine representation of the film. Not everyone will be ready to see this, but for those who are, and those who think they are, I highly recommend that you see this film.
End of article.
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