Top 365 Films – #263 – United 93 (2006)

Top 365 Films - United 93 DIRECTED BY: Paul Greengrass

STARRING: Christian Clemenson, Cheyenne Jackson, Khalid Abdalla Omar Berdouni, Lewis Alsamari, Jamie Harding, Trish Gates, Polly Adams, Opal Alladin, Nancy McDoniel, David Alan Basche, Peter Hermann, Corey Johnson, Ben Sliney, Gregg Henry and Patrick St. Esprit

BUDGET: $15m

EARNED (Worldwide): $76.3m

AWARDS: 2 BAFTA’s (Best Director and Best Editing)



A real time account of the events on United Flight 93, one of the planes hijacked on 9/11 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania when passengers foiled the terrorist plot.


We are placed in the vision of Paul Greengrass on what may have taken place on flight United 93 on September 11 2001, as we primarily focus on the passengers and terrorists leading up to the hijack as well as the passengers and crew coming up with an attempt to take back control of the airplane. Meantime we also follow how the events effect those at Air Traffic Control and US Air Force.


Paul Greengrass done a terrific job in handling a film that was tasteful, powerful and important considering the material and many arguing and will still argue that the film came out too early (along with the film World Trade Center), 5 year after the events of 9/11. There’s no added melodrama to proceedings amongst the passengers, meaning you know as much the passengers throughout the film as what we normally would if we went on a flight ourselves. There’s also no back stories amongst those at the US Air Force command room and at Air Traffic Control, it’s just business as usual, but on the most tragic day in our generations history. There is moments of ‘too real’ in the film and performances, such as when the controllers at LaGuardia tower witness the second plane moving towards and crashing into the World Trade Center…the look on their faces say it all and the imagery of the video footage plays on for the impact and the reactions of everyone else at the Command Room and Air Traffic Control room, as well as the audience. There’s no fancy special effects or made up characters in a historical event, Greengrass keeps it as accurate and as close to documentary style filmmaking as possible, making no conclusions or exploiting on what should have been done here or prevented there. The acting throughout the film is really good, particularly those on board flight United 93 and the ending will always just break me, right up until it goes to black.


FAVOURITE SCENE: The passengers make a break for it to takeover the plane.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘Hey, this is a suicide mission. We have to do something. They are not gonna land this plane.’ – Thomas E. Burnett Jr.

DID YOU KNOW?: To make the movie as authentic as possible, director Paul Greengrass cast a number of real-life participants in the events of September 11, 2001 to play themselves. The principal “real-life role” in the movie is Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, who made the decision on 9/11 to shut down all air traffic operations in the United States. Sliney had just been promoted to the National Operations Manager position, and September 11, 2001 was his first day on the job. (This explains why he receives applause from the FAA flight monitors when he walks into the control center in Herndon, VA, at the beginning of the movie.) Several officials who were with Sliney in the FAA control room on 9/11 play themselves (including Tobin Miller, Rich Sullivan, and Tony Smith). In the scenes at Newark Airport, several air traffic controllers who were in the Newark control tower on 9/11, and who witnessed the air attacks on the World Trade Center, play themselves. In the scenes at the air traffic monitoring centers in Boston, New York, and Cleveland, the air traffic monitors are all played by real-life air traffic controllers, including several who were at these locations on 9/11, and who monitored the hijacked flights. In the scenes at the Northeast Air Defense Command Center (NEADS) in Rome, NY, most of the military personnel are played by real-life military air traffic controllers, including several people (notably Major James Fox) who were at NEADS on 9/11. Also, on United Flight 93, the actors playing the pilots in the movie are real-life airline pilots, and the stewardesses are played by real airline stewardesses, some of whom actually work for United Airlines.

One response to “Top 365 Films – #263 – United 93 (2006)

  1. Great film but a difficult one to watch and one that I doubt I’ll ever be able to watch again. No frills and very clear story-telling: the best way to handle this kind of material.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.