It does not matter that you already know how the story ends. Knowing only makes it worse. As you watch events that have already taken place, you find yourself losing your identity as the viewer. You are part of the terror, a member of the panic, a victim trapped in the screams, the numbness, the prayers. You are dying on a plane.
United 93 is the up-close, single-mission story of the United Airlines flight that was hijacked on September 11, 2001, and crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Part of this story had to be guessed; part of it will never be known. But most of it is told exactly the way it was found. British director Paul Greengrass creates a documentary-style experience with a realness that you can see, touch, and breathe. Meticulous care is taken in projecting the last hours of the passengers — down to the clothes they wore, the snacks they ate, the last words they spoke over the phone.
The film offers no commentary on the other events of September 11 and makes no attempt to be political or even patriotic. It simply is. It creates you in the image of forty passengers aboard a flight and leaves you when you are dead. The message is, “This is what happened.”
Its bluntness and nobility are unflinching; its emotional devastation is overwhelming. United 93 does not beg us to remember — it makes it impossible for us to forget.