United 93 Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
United 93 is difficult to watch. Difficult because we already know how the fated flight ends. Difficult because we realize no Tom Cruise-like hero will pull the plane out of its plummeting nosedive at the very last minute. Difficult because news images of the burning, gutted Twin Towers stirs up the feelings that followed the impact of four commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
For those of us too young to remember where we were when JFK was shot, 9/11 has become our unforgettable moment in time, our defining point in history. I was in the kitchen canning peaches when I got a call, “Turn on the TV.” While the pot boiled unheeded, I watched with millions of others—my humdrum activities suddenly forgotten.
The film eerily opens with depictions of similarly mundane activities. Passengers check their baggage, and then wait for a boarding call. They read their email, finish off a business deal, call home, or peruse a newspaper. Pilots and flight attendants show up for another routine day on the job. They talk about their kids and make plans for the upcoming week. On the ground, air traffic controllers tucked into dark offices patrol the airspace on blinking monitors and Newark Airport tower personnel keep an eye on the sky. It’s a busy but regular day.
However, cut into these everyday actions are shots of four young men setting out on a mission of another kind.
From an artistic point of view, the film is well crafted, the performances are credible and the script, based on actual conversations, is believable. Staying away from big name headliners, director Paul Greengrass relies on the skills of lesser-known actors who were given studies of their real-life counterparts on the plane. As well, he uses some actual participants from the event to help tell the story. The casting choice allows the screenplay to focus on the heroics at hand without any intrusion from stars or their egos.
As the events unfold the background music introduces a sound like a wildly beating heart and, knowing what’s coming, it triggered my own internal palpitations. By the end of the film, there are blood-splattered bodies aboard United 93 and profusely profaning air traffic controllers on the ground. However, it’s the ruthless scenes of terrorism likely to leave many audience members wondering if they’re ready to relive that September day—for the sake of entertainment.
As the passengers realize the suicidal intent of the hijackers, the depictions of parents and children, lovers and friends calling to say their last good-byes is heart-wrenching. Unnerving also are the shots of the plane flying over the sublime Pennsylvania countryside where people quietly live, unaware of the heroic actions of everyday citizens going on in the air above them.
In the years to come, I hope United 93 will stand as a tribute to those brave men and women, and the sacrifices made by their families. But is now the time for this kind of production? Does United 93 promote healing or add to the heartache? Those will be individual conclusions. Yet in either case, parents should be strongly cautioned about this film’s intense subject matter, which they may find inappropriate for their children and teens.Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring David Alan Basche, Olivia Thirlby, Liza Colón-Zayas. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release April 27, 2006. Updated April 24, 2020
Rating & Content Info
Why is United 93 rated R? United 93 is rated R by the MPAA for language, and some intense sequences of terror and violence. Appeal planned.
In an opening scene of the film, one naked hijacker is shown shaving his chest (no direct nudity is seen). He then tucks a knife into his belt before heading to the airport. Voices are raised once the air traffic controllers suspect one or more planes have been hijacked.
A man constructs a bomb and straps it to his chest. A flight attendant is attacked and a knife is held to her throat. Several men are brutally stabbed and beaten. Several characters are shown covered in blood. A group of passengers attack the hijackers using kitchen utensils and other objects on the plane. A man sprays a fire extinguisher into the faces of other passengers. The pilot wildly rocks the plane. Numerous profanities, including at least six uses of an extreme expletive, are used in the script along with repeated terms of Deity.
Page last updated April 24, 2020
United 93 Parents' Guide
Despite training exercises, communication issues complicate many of the response times from ground personnel. Why is communication so important during a crisis? What can be learned from such an event? Do you have a contingency plan in your own family to help deal with emergencies?
Several people, including Ben Sliney, who was the FAA’s chief of operations on September 11, play themselves in this movie. Do you think it adds to the realism of the film? How difficult do you think it may have been for those participants to re-enact the event?
Many family members of the passengers on United 93 were contacted during the production of this film. How would you feel about having a story told about a tragic family event? Do you think portrayals in the media and movies help us digest events like wars and other tragedies, or just exploit them for commercial gain? (Universal Studios is planning to donate 10% of the revenue raised during the film’s opening weekend, toward a Flight 93 Memorial Fund.)
The official website for this film (www.united93movie.com/index.php) includes biographies for each of the passengers onboard. It also provides you an opportunity to donate to the Flight 93 Memorial Fund.
The most recent home video release of United 93 movie is September 6, 2011. Here are some details…
Blu-ray Notes: United 93
Blu-ray Release Date: 5 September 2006
United 93 releases on Blu-ray with the following bonus extras:
- Feature Commentary with Director Paul Greengrass
- United 93: The Families And The Film
- Chasing Planes - Witnesses To 9/11
- Memorial Pages
- Twin Towers
- Flight 93 National Memorial
- My Scenes
- Pocket BLU
DVD Notes: United 93 (2-Disc Special Edition)
DVD Release Date: 5 September 2006
United 93 releases on DVD just in time for the fifth anniversary of the fateful events it depicts. Included with the 2-Disc Special Edition is a widescreen presentation of the film and two documentaries: Chasing Planes: Witnesses to 9/11 examines the details of all four airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001, focusing on the experiences of both military personnel and civilians as they responded to these acts of terrorism. (The 48-minute documentary is produced and directed by United 93‘s associate producer Michael Bronner.) United 93: The Families and the Film looks at the collaboration between the family members and the actors that took place in order to create a truthful script for the production. (The 50-minute documentary is produced and directed by United 93‘s associate producer Kate Solomon.) The movie is also available as a single disc release, in either wide or full screen. These versions offer a commentary by director Paul Greengrass, the United 93: The Families and the Film featurette and memorial pages. All of the editions provide audio tracks in English (Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 5.1) and Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.
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Other memorable events in US history that have been dramatized and put to film include Thirteen Days (the story behind the Cuban missile crisis), The Alamo (remember this important battle in the Mexican -American war) and Apollo 13 (the moon mission that nearly ended in disaster).