United 93, Back to the Future, Chronicle, This is England, Walk the Line: films on TV today

Real-life drama and teen traumas played out across time, space and Sheffield: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

United 93 ★★★★
10.30pm-12.30am ITV 


Though I was among those who initially resisted the truism that the world changed for ever on September 11, 2001, it’s not difficult to trace today’s myriad global troubles back to that day in New York. United 93, a gut-wrenching re-enactment of what happened on board one of the four hijacked planes (the one that never reached its target), has become a fixture in the schedules around the anniversary of the atrocities, yet its power remains undiminished. While Oliver Stone’s comparable and technically proficient World Trade Center was more descriptive of the fate of the Twin Towers, it was shot in the style of a disaster movie, was built around a big star (Nic Cage) and occasionally felt melodramatic. British writer/director Paul Greengrass perhaps draws upon his geographical outsider’s perspective to capture all the terror of that day without descending into flag-waving. Using the same vicarious, handheld, documentary style he employed in Bloody Sunday and Bourne, Greengrass takes us on board United Airlines Flight 93 at Newark and allows us furtive glances around the cabin, while four hijackers sit nervously in their seats. The sense of realism is aided by mostly unrecognisable actors both in the air and on the ground. At New York air-traffic control, FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney delivers a remarkably assured performance as himself, keeping control as the skies seemingly fill with stricken aircraft. Only Corey Johnson, a regular face on British TV (including a spell in Doctor Who), threatens to break the spell. If there is such a thing as 9/11 fatigue 14 years on, I promise this film will dispel it. When the first plane hits the North Tower, we glimpse it from the safe distance of the control tower, but the iconic image is all the more breathtaking for being at such a remove.The attempted mutiny by passengers on United 93 provides the film’s momentum, and though the outcome is well known, the build-up is almost unbearably tense, and you start to believe these ordinary heroes can change the course of history.

Back to the Future ★★★★★
4.45-7.00pm ITV

Teenager Michael J Fox travels through time to his parents’ high-school heyday in the hit 1980s comedy. 

Chronicle ★★★★
11.10pm-12.50am C4 

Granted great powers, three teenagers find that the great responsibility part is optional in this smart and effective sci-fi drama.    

This Is England ★★★★
9.00-11.10pm Film4 

New series This Is England ’90 kids off on Channel4 this Sunday. Before that, here’s a chance to see where it all began for Thomas Turgoose and the gang.   

Walk the Line ★★★★
9.00-11.45pm Movie Mix 


Back before his apparent meltdown, Joaquin Phoenix impressed as legendary singer Johnny Cash, though it was Reese Witherspoon who won the Oscar as wife June Carter.