May 1, 2006

United 93 - a Meditation

Hatched by Dafydd

We went to see the movie today (Sunday), yet this isn't a review. Indeed, it's impossible to "review" this movie, because it's not a movie in the normal sense of the word: there is no plot per se, no story, very little acting. But it is compelling to the point of anxiety in some viewers.

It squrims around, it turns about and swallows its own tail; this piece, I mean -- I write it as it bubbles up, and I will leave it unedited, warts and all.

United 93 unfolds simply as a moment by moment recounting of the four hijackings that occurred on 9/11 (the 9/11, one of only three days in American history that are known only by their raw dates. One of the others is December 7th, 1941). We see the hijackers of United flight 93 preparing to board; we watch the routine coordinated chaos of flight control to the point of numbness; but this section is for a reason... we must remember the normality of that day, that date, just a nameless number on the calendar until --

For the same reason it's impossible to review the movie, it's almost impossible to spoil it. Ooh, cover your eyes... four planes get hijacked; two plough into the World Trade Centers, one into the Pentagon, and the hero (the flight itself is the protagonist) ploughs into a field in Pennsylvania instead of the Capitol dome. You see? It cannot be spoiled, because it is not watched: it is experienced. Or rather, re-experienced.

If you felt it like lightning on that day, you will experience the movie as the aftershock of thunder. There is really little acting: everyone simply reacts the way he or she reacted at the time (made eerily verisimilitudinous by the fact that nearly all the important figures at the FAA, at NORAD, at the flight-control center in Virginia, and at two airports are actually played by themselves).

The actors playing the passengers on flight 93 are given little room to act, because (of course) their only option was to re-act: to the initial bloody violence of the first assault by the hijackers, to their attempts to calm themselves with the mantra (do you remember?) that "a hijacking is a survivable situation," and to the horrible realization that this was not a hijacking: it was a pagan ritual sacrifice to Moloch, the death-eating god of the "Holy Land" before the Hebrews arrived to sanctify it.

You will be gripped. You will not be bored. But you will not be "entertained," in the normal sense of what most folks expect from a movie. The audience left quietly; perhaps they remembered... and if they did, the movie did good. If they never knew before, then the movie did more than "good," it served the cause of humanity and modernity: some things are best not forgotten by the culture.

Everybody reading this will see it, excepting only those who cannot live through it again. If it helps make up your mind, you do not see the buildings collapse, you don't see that couple holding hands and jumping -- or indeed, any jumpers. United 93 is not lurid in any way, save that the incident itself spirals into an inevitable pit of blackness, like the smoking hole awaiting the brave citizen-soldiers on that flight; like a Lovecraftian summoning of the Elder gods.

Somebody on some blog somewhere -- it passed through me in the dark night of my soul -- said that what the passengers did on flight 93 was strike the first military response to the attacks of that same day. And I am pround of my countrymen that the first blow against the new enemy was struck, not by professionals in camouflage but by ordinary, extraordinary citizens: because that is the lesson of the eponymous United 93 (the flight)... in the end we will march victorious not because of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Forces, cops, pols, or diplomats, but because we are who we are.

Because we are Americans.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 1, 2006, at the time of 3:54 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

I haven't seen Flight 93 yet. You know why? I'm afraid.

Yeah, I'll take on any issue head first, I'll raise my heart up to the Defense of the United States, in my Heart of Hearts I maintain that I would give my life for my country if I thought that there was the SLIGHTEST CHANCE that my sacrifice would halt evil or promote the Good.

But I have to admit, as difficult as this is... I fear seeing this movie.

I fear it because of the absolute enormity of what those passengers went through, the decisions they had to make, and the fact that they were able to carry them through.

Imagine being on the plane... you know that hijackings are possible, but you KNOW because there is a CODE that you can get through it alive as long as nobody tries to be a hero.

As long as nobody tries to be a hero. Yeah. That's what we are told. "Don't be a hero!" is a line you hear in the big and little screens. Usually it's the Authority Figure lecturing the Wild Card character, as if to say "If you try to be a Hero, it will only make Bad Things happen to innocent people!" Easy to say as an actor, easy to write from comfort.

But those folks on that flight didn't give in to that surrender mentality. Thank God.

I want to say that I could react the same way they did, and my personality says I probably would. Who knows. But in some ways its easier to decide to do a thing like that yourself than to watch others have to do it. I know how I'll react to seeing that.

I'll go. Because I owe it to them. But I'm afraid.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2006 11:10 PM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi

From the beginning of the movie, my heart was pounding. I knew what was going to happen. The way people were getting ready to get on the plane was so routine. I went through it a dozen times in the last six months.

I felt like I was actually waiting to get on Flight 93. The fact I did not get to know any of the passengers that well was so realistic. They were thrown into that situation together, and they had to work together.

I could have been there. I felt like I was there.

It was really powerful.

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 1, 2006 11:47 PM

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