ANDREW COLLINS: FILM OF THE DAY 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.
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