United 93

There's a movie coming out next Friday, United 93, about the 9/11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers foiled part of the hijacking that resulted in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. Click on the link for the movie's website, which will give you access to the movie's trailer.

Recently, Devin Farci at Chud.com interviewed a few of the family members who lost relatives in the crash. It's pretty much what you'd expect; the three people interviewed (David and Peggy Beamer, who's son Todd died, and Gordon Felt, who lost his brother Edward) are happy to see their loved ones treated with such respect, and feel the movie will serve as a reminder that we need to maintain constain vigilance in order to preserve the American way of life. (They use that phrase, "way of life," a couple of times.)

I'm glad, in an intellectual way, that these people are getting a some kind of closure. But, and I apologize if this sounds callous, I can't see this as a good reason for me to see the movie. I've watched the trailer a few times now, and each time, it loses some of its appeal. There's a lot of talk going around that it's "too soon;" I can't speak to that, since my emotional involvement in 9/11 was light. What I can speak to, though, is the movie as a movie, and, while it's always dangerous to judge on a few minutes of footage, I'm willing to bet that the film will be just like that interview: respectful, anti-terrorist, and ultimately pointless. (Admittedly, most entertainment interviews are pointless, so it's not as though this one doesn't have its place.) I'm not sure if truth is stranger than fiction, but I do know that a fictional movie based on true events will often serve to reduce those events by constraining them into a predictable structure.

For example, there's a clip in the trailer of a stewardess saying something to the effect of, "I wish I was home with my kids." There's also a bit where one of the passenger just barely makes his flight. I'm not sure if either of these events actually happened, but even if they did, in a movie, they're both horrible cliches, the storytelling equivalent of getting your head bashed in with a cane while a horrible old man shrieks, "Think, Mcfly! Think!" That they're using such obvious ploys for our sympathy, when the subject is so blatantly sympathetic to begin with, doesn't give me high hopes. I don't think the movie will be bad, per se; just sterile, the secular equivalent of one of those Jesus biopics that pop up on TV every few years.

Hopefully, I'm completely wrong. I'm not sure what a "great" 9/11 movie would be, but if I had to guess, I'd say it would be something that does more than satisfy the grieving and memorialize the dead. We can respect the past without ignoring its complexities; perhaps a failure to do so is indicative that those cries of "Too soon!" are more valid than they would initially appear.

So, what do you think? Am I judging too harshly from a few moments of trailer? Are you bothered to see them making a movie like this at all?

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