Army of Dad and I went to see United 93
last night. I wish I could remember everything to give you a blow by blow account of the movie, my feelings and the atmosphere.
Suffice it to say that the emotions were overwhelming.
We went to the 10:20 p.m. Saturday night show. I was pleasantly surprised at the 75 percent full theater and the largely college age crowd. We arrived early because we weren’t sure if the theater would sell out or not and we wanted good seats. I was reading a magazine and watching the Behind the Scenes movie clips (I like this new feature at the Cinemark) and people-watching. AoD was playing video games.
In walks three 20-something Middle Eastern guys. My first instinct was “Wow, these guys want to see the movie. They must be brave.” Then, the hair on my arms sort of stood on end and I wondered, or is that why they’re here? Are we going to be one of the places where they stand up and scream something in Arabic and try to kill us all? Are they going to try and disrupt the movie?
I text messaged AoD about their arrival. Ironically, he thought I was texting him that the movie was starting and that was the movement on the big screen. He came in and realized what I meant, scanned the theater and spotted them.
I found myself caught between feeling cautious and on guard or feeling like a shithead for being suspicious of what could be some very nice hard-working students.
Then, the lights went down. After a few previews, the movie starts very unceremoniously as we watch the terrorists starting their day with prayers and getting ready for their suicide/murderous mission.
I felt my heart start to beat faster. My stomach began to churn. The anxiety in my chest got tighter. I found it harder to breathe. I reached in my purse and grabbed a tissue in anticipation of what was coming.
We see them – and the passengers and crew of United 93 – go through their routine of getting ready for a flight. All the “what if’s” running through my head. What if this had happened? What if that happened?
The movie is shot in real time of the events that unfolded that day. Funny, because it seemed like it all happened much faster in my recollections of that day, but when I think back, I know it wasn’t as quick moving as I thought. I still have memories of Sept. 11 burned into my memory.
As things progress for about 15 minutes, the sick feeling in my stomach isn’t going away and I was afraid I’d throw up. So, I left and dry heaved in the bathroom for a minute or two, splashed cold water on my face and returned. The gag reflex was still strong for about 30 more minutes before it finally settled. Then, the anxiety moved in. It was getting harder to breathe.
The movie is shot largely with a hand-held camera. You don’t get to know anyone personally. It is very much as if you’re on the flight with them. Think about the last time you flew. You overhear snippets of conversations – the business man telling his office what needs to get done; a husband and wife planning their events upon landing; someone calling a lover; the crew meeting each other or complaining about their schedule. And, you know no one’s names.
You never feel emotionally involved with these people, yet you do – mostly because you know what is going to happen. You hear the pilots talking – one about an anniversary trip with his wife and the other about his 11-month-old baby. So, no, I don’t get inside a character, but I felt the pain of those who loved them. Because I knew what was going to happen. It was like watching a horror movie and wanting to tell the teenaged girl not to open the door. I wanted to scream at the screen “NO NO NO. Don’t let them on. Can’t you tell what they’re going to do?” I felt that feeling the whole time.
I was amazed to watch things unfold in real time – they showed us not only the flight, but the air traffic controllers in several cities where the action unfolded. They showed us the military. They showed the lack of communication and chain of command and why this tragedy was able to be accomplished because we let our guard down.
So many thoughts running through my head. I’m actually writing a story now for a homeland security magazine on the state of our first responders (cops, firefighters, EMTs, etc) and thoughts about what the experts were telling me went through my head. I had an aha moment. This movie and the action – and lack of it – made a lot of what they were telling me make more sense. (on a side note, I spoke with an NYPD senior cop Saturday afternoon who told me that he felt the NYPD was completely prepared for anything thrown at them. Other officials were not so sure about the rest of the country.)
As the flights were grounded in the movie, I instantly remembered what I felt like that day as the flights were grounded. My sister-in-law and her new husband were on their honeymoon in Hawaii. I guess there are worst places to get stuck, but it was scary. They had planned a trip to Pearl Harbor on the 11th. It was closed because of the attacks and they didn’t get to go. My parents were on the East Coast on vacation. I remember driving down the road, praying that they were ok and sobbed big heart-wrenching cries as I drove down the road – terrified that they were on a flight that was going to be highjacked, too, before flights were stopped. I was never so grateful for air traffic to sit still. Then, I got a phone call from my dad. They were fine. They were planning on flying back the next day, but they were going to try and rent a car to drive home. It took them a few days, but I was so glad to hear from them. I had to pull over because I couldn’t safely drive anymore. Then, the guilt hit me like a ton of bricks. My family was ok. There were thousands whose weren’t.
As the action in the movie went on, I felt so many emotions. I alternated between crying softly to shaking to being so mad that my tissue was almost decimated. I was mad at these awful men who hate us so much. I was mad at them for hardening my otherwise soft heart.
I watched the screen as the passengers killed the terrorists with their bare hands. I cried and was sad because I feel like the terrorists took away some of the softness that makes me a tenderhearted person. I can’t watch Ultimate Fight Challenge with AoD because it hurts me and upsets me to watch these men beat each other up. Yet, here I was watching the passengers beat the snot out of these men. At one point, one terrorist’s neck was snapped. I was happy to see it happen. That makes me miserable. Then, the plane crashes and there is nothing.
The movie has some additional information at the end that runs before the credentials, but it was amazing – as the people left the theater, no one said a word. Not a single word was uttered. We stayed until the very end. Reading the credits, some of the air traffic controllers and military people in the movie portrayed themselves. That was interesting.
When we finally cleared out, after stopping by the restrooms, there was a group of about nine Middle Eastern men – among them, the three I saw in our movie – standing outside the exit talking in Arabic. That seemed odd to me. I just wondered if there were ulterior motives there as I was thinking back to the Muslim organization who was trying to see how hassled they could be at Nascar races
. I certainly hope that wasn’t the case, but I sure have my suspicions. From what I saw, no one looked at them twice.
Regardless, great movie. I highly recommend it. It was rated R probably for the violence and content, some language.
I wouldn't take a kid younger than 14 or so to see it and at that, it depends on the kid. My kids won't see this for a while. I saw no political undertones to the picture and that was appreciated. You can judge it for what it was - an eye-opening experience for the US.