United 93 (2006)
Grade: A | 3rd Viewing
Many have said that there is not yet a definitive movie about September 11th, but I would argue that Paul Greengrass’ gripping drama is it. The film perfectly dramatizes the chaos and confusion of the events taking place in just over an hour and a half time span. It’s not a film that I can watch often because it really shakes me, especially that chilling last shot. I can’t imagine a director other than Paul Greengrass depicting this film with his chaos style camera work and fantastic editing from his collaborator Christopher Rouse.
The sound editing is also perfect and you will get the full effect if you have a home theatre with a surround sound system. Greengrass edits around a single room going from one conversation to the next and the remnants of the previous conversation can still be heard in the background. Having recently seen Contagion (full review coming tomorrow) I think that one of my biggest criticisms about Soderbergh’s film was that he tried to make a story about anonymous characters so that the experience could be universal. However, Greengrass more effectively pulled that off by casting unrecognizable actors (many being the real people playing themselves). It is a fantastic film to revisit on this important day.
7 Days in September (2002)
Grade: A- | 1st Viewing
My wife and I stumbled across this documentary on Netflix Watch Instantly and decided to check it out. It was surprisingly moving and brought some interesting takes on the tragedy. Basically it is comprised of 27 different perspectives from people who had cameras during the important moments of September 11th. Some of the people were miles away and others were as close as 1 block away from the Trade Center when the tragedy occurred. The footage shown is different than the images we have seen on the news for 10 years and each has a rough, guerilla quality that puts the viewer in their shoes.
One of the most interesting and startling footage was from one of the filmmakers who was a few blocks away from the towers when they collapsed. Moments after the first tower fell we see footage of people exiting the subway who did not know what had just happened. They emerge into a dust and debris covered version of the Manhattan they once knew and react with sheer terror. It’s the sort of raw emotional reaction that even the most talented of actors cannot portray and it is deeply affecting. The film has diminishing returns in the last hour, but for the footage of the actual incident makes it all worth it.