Knowing his audience would bring more emotional weight than he could ever add to the story of the only hijacked 9/11 flight that didn’t hit its target, Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) opted for an unadorned presentation that stresses elucidation over entertainment. As he says in his commentary, the event ”didn’t belong to a rarefied world of movie stars where you expect exceptional things to be done.” Casting lesser-known actors alongside actual military and air traffic personnel (most of whom had been at their posts on the day) lent a ”special veracity,” says Greengrass. He made sure his depiction of one hijacker’s hesitancy was grounded in evidence of his ”ambivalence about the mission.” He worried about the violence, but decided that ”we can’t understand 9/11 and airbrush the terror out of it,” and was told by a widow of one of the passengers that ”there’s nothing that you can do on this film that will match the images that I have in my mind and I will have forever.”
United 93, the result of all this care is an excruciating but honorable look at something no one should ever have to see. Meanwhile, on this two-disc edition, one bonus featurette is somewhat vexing: Family-member interviews coupled with home-video footage of passengers while they were alive are uplifting, but encounters between the actors and the families are full of confused emotions made awkward by the presence of a camera.