United 93

The horrors of Sept. 11, at a theater near you.

First, you hear 'œthe low, mumbling sound of Muslim prayers' from somewhere in the darkness, said Louis Wittig in National Review Online. Then all becomes confusion and terror—passengers and hijackers yelling, frantic flight controllers, bloody stabbings with box cutters. At this point in a recent New York City screening of United 93, some audience members had their hands clamped over their mouths. One of them 'œgroaned sporadically,' got up, 'œstood in the aisle, still transfixed for a few seconds,' and ran away. He didn't see the desperate calls to loved ones, the passengers' uprising, the final plunge to earth. When the lights came up, a World Trade Center survivor rushed for the bathroom to splash cold water on his face. 'œHe muttered 'Wow' several times and said he was still trying to breathe.'

For any American who lived through that awful day, said Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.com, director Paul Greengrass' United 93 is a wrenching experience. On Sept. 11, having learned that terrorists had plunged three hijacked jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, some of the 40 passengers on a fourth plane rebelled and rushed the cockpit, only to die when the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. United 93 is no crass exploitation flick; it's a 'œbrilliantly crafted' tribute that displays 'œalmost boundless sensitivity to persons living and dead.' Yet for all of the film's integrity, it offers 'œno hope of transcendence,' no relief from the nausea and heartache that lingers after you've fled the theater. 'œI've never had a more excruciating moviegoing experience in my life.' I couldn't help but wonder 'œwhy it was made in the first place.'

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