Before UNITED 93 opened in theaters in the spring of 2006, there
was a great deal of hand wringing and debate over whether it was too
soon for a movie to tackle the subject of the events of September 11, 2001.
What a lot of people involved in the debate seemed to forget was that
the small screen already had tackled the matter. The A&E Network aired
FLIGHT 93, which depicted some of the same events as UNITED 93, in
January 2006 and had repeated it after its debut. In fact, the movie was
the network's highest rated program ever. So clearly there were a lot of
people who didn't think it was too soon to examine the events, as long as
they could do so from the comforts of their homes. By the time this
film was debuting, The Discovery Channel had aired
(back in September 2005). Now both made-for-television
movies were among the nominees for the 2006 Emmy Award. Since I am
one of the few remaining people in America who doesn't have cable, I
decided to check out
FLIGHT 93 thanks to Netflix. (The Discovery Channel
film seems to be only available for purchase from the network.)

There are some similarities between the television movie,
directed by Peter Markle and scripted by Nevin Schreiner and
Paul Greengrass' motion picture version. I suppose that is to be
expected, since they are essentially telling the same story. Greengrass'
approach was to offer background regarding how the airlines, the FAA and
the military reacted to the attacks on the World Trade Center and then
concentrate on the passengers. The last half-hour of
UNITED 93 was
a claustrophobic supposition about the events on that ill-fated flight.
Markle and Schreiner took a different approach, concentrating on a
few families and the interaction they had via cell phone with their
loved ones who were on the plane. These are heart-wrenching scenes
but there is an understated quality that keeps the entire film from
boiling over into pathos.

Obviously, no one knows exactly what took place in the
last minutes before United Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
It is clear, though, that the passengers attempted to wrest control
of the plane from the hijackers. Both films serve as a vivid reminder
of the heroism of these men and women. Because it involves those
left behind,
FLIGHT 93 carries more emotional weight, but that may
be expected from a movie made for television and designed to appeal
the masses.

                       Rating:        B +

                           Viewed on DVD
Flight 93
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.