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Clint M

United 93

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This is the first feature film on United 93, a plane used in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy).

There are two previous movies involving United 93 as a subject - Flight 93, a tele-movie that focused more on the conversations between the passengers and the people they came in contact with; The Flight That Fought Back, a docu-drama focused on making clear the facts from the fiction.

This is the first major motion picture involving events surrounding Sept. 11th; the second is Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, starring Nicholas Cage as a Port Authority cop trapped in the rubble of the WTC.

But the question is: is it too soon for a Sept. 11 feature film? Just for relevance, a World War II-era film on Pearl Harbor came out in 1942 to capitalize on the war effort in the country. However, it was a different era, and a more clearly defined enemy.

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If the filmmakers want to make the film, then it's clearly not too early for it to be made, however, I know that it IS too early for me to see it.

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I think it is too early. I don't want to sound either unsympathetic or insensitive, but so much of the rhetoric around flight 93 in particular had to do with heroism, patriotism and fighting for freedom that I can imagine that the film may be trying to do what Clint M says about that Pearl Harbor film in 1942. This is not fair of me to say, as I haven't seen the film (I won't see it), but it feels like a patriot-building film.

The kind of Sept 11 film I will be much more open to is the film version of Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, from Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel. Foer did a good job avoiding the sentimental, I thought, and in the hand's of someone else his material may go too far, but it is the kind of film I'd be willing to see.

Not big special effects films. Not Nicholas Cage trapped under rubble.

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I share Jeff Rioux's concerns about this film. At any rate, I don't think I'd be seeing this anyway, as the pain from 9/11 is still too fresh, and this feels way too exploitative and voyeuristic. It was quite jarring even to see a preview for this, especially when followed by the stylized violence of MI-3.

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As already mentioned by others, I do not believe it is too early if the intent is to help us put a visual on our traumatic experience. This can be very healing as the cognitive mind deals with the emotional trauma. However, if the purpose is to increase our anger toward enemies or to bring some sense of hero-worship, then it is too early.

Denny

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Just to be clear: "Remember Pearl Harbor" was a Republic Picture, the equivalent of a straight to video quickie starring Wings Hauser -- this was a cheap exploitation picture. As a meaningful contrast, John Ford and Gregg Toland's hypnotically weird, fictional re-creation/documentary, December 7th, made under navy auspices, was seized and brutally recut from 80 minutes to 32, because it was deemed too damaging to morale.

Pearl Harbor was clearly a touchy subject. The Government needed to use it to rile people up, without having them ask too many questions about how it was that the whole pacific fleet was caught napping.

Edited by goneganesh

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I don't think its too early. There have been countless books, songs, documentaries, etc. that have dealt with 9/11, its inevitable that a film would be made. I would rather see a film about Flight 93 than a film about the trade towers going down. We watched that unfold in real time, any attempt to simulate it is not going to feel very authentic. I know less about what actually happened on Flight 93. Some of it will be speculation, but I'd be more interested in seeing a film on this than the attack on towers.

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Here is a letter from David Beamer, father of Todd Beamer, who died on Flight 93:

Friends,

Peggy and I, along with other family members of those on board Flight 93, had the opportunity to see this film produced by Paul Greengrass and Universal which is the story of United #93 on 9.11.01.

Paul and his production staff researched this event thoroughly, reached out to all the families (they came from the UK to visit with us on the east coast and even went to interview Michele in Honolulu). Peggy and I were hopeful, albeit apprehensive, that this story of action and courage which needs to be told would be told with accuracy and realism and no "agendas".

Having seen the film we said to Paul and his team ...."Thank you. Indeed, it is very well done".

What I wanted to say to you my friends is .... go see it. Every American should. In addition, see it on the weekend it opens....April 28.... Universal is donating 10% of the gross that weekend to the Flight 93 National Memorial project in Shanksville.

This story needs to be told and now is not a moment too soon. Some Americans have forgotten, others are forgetting, surpressing the painful realities, pretending every thing is OK ..... Sept 11 is the day the war came home. We got a terrible wake up call. The war is not over.

The enemy has world domination as their goal. The word "surrender" does not appear in their dictionary. The word "retreat" must not be found in ours. Our creator made us with a "free will" to worship, believe or not, speak as we please............. the freedoms that hundred's of thousands of Ameicans have died to create and preserve. The "war on terror" defines what we are aginst. What are we fighting for? It is a "war for freedoms" that we must and will win.

Through the years the price for our way of life has been great, but whatever is required must be paid. I

am grateful for those who are paying it and continuing the counterattacks in the middle east.

"United 93" does a great job of telling the story of our first (and successful) counterattack. Go see it.

Inside information to determine which one is Todd......... The actor playing Todd, early in the movie comments on his cell phone re: a SONY meeting. Todd was going to Oracle HQ that day for a SONY meeting... his account. That's Todd in the blue shirt.

David Beamer

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This letter by the Beamer family reinforces my earlier comment. As a healing of trauma, a visual/cognitive experience of the somatic/emotional trauma, this film could be a gift to many of us.

Denny

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Having seen Bloody Sunday, Paul Greengrass's film about the killings in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972, and seeing the sensitivity with which he treated the source material for that film, I am willing to trust that he will show the same sensitivity and respect in making the United 93 film.

Edited by Crow

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There is no RIGHT or WRONG decision here. Each person has different experiences with September 11th, different questions, different memories.

I agree with Lisa Schwarzbaum, and I disagree with Mr. Beamer: There is no "SHOULD" here. For some it will be rewarding. For others, it would only tear scabs off of wounds.

As sure as I am that many will benefit from the experience, I have concerns that will keep me from it, at least for now.

As Sam Phillips sings, "Pictures steal our memories and turn our minds to salt." When we look at someone else's manifestation of an event, it can affect our memories of that event. For this reason, I never watched a videotape of my own wedding. I don't want to think of what it looked like from the back of the auditorium. I want to preserve as sacred the experience I had from the front of the auditorium, from where I stood.

So many of my high school experiences are lost in my memory, and I cannot call them up. When someone mentions graduation, I see my videotape playing in my head. I see my parents' photographs. It breaks my heart that I cannot remember crossing that stage, or standing with my friend and acting out some of the important moments of our developing friendship for the people congregated. I've lost my own experience.

After September 11th, T Bone Burnett, who was just down the street from the attacks, wrote:

I would prefer not to relate the emotional aspects of the event, as you will hear it all from the media, and although some of it will be useful most of it will be a hypnotized unconscious and irresponsible effort on the part of the media to try to "make" your emotions for you. I would urge you to avoid this as much as possible. Your emotions are your own as are your thoughts and impressions, and they are sacred. Try to keep them that way and avoid the mob effect that you will be submitted to. Try to think and feel for yourself.

I have my own impressions, however through it all the most difficult thing was to keep a sense of awareness separate from the food of emotions and confusion. To stay at the top of the string, not in the sway of the pendulum.

I believe that Greengrass is an artist, not just an entertainer. His work will be more valuable than most of the media regurgitations of footage and fear that force us to relive the experience while distancing ourselves from it more and more.

And yet, I cherish my memories of the experience, for all that they taught me, for the way it changed my life, for the sacred moments Anne and I shared walking on the beach a couple of hours later and reminding ourselves of the sovreignty of God in the presence of the beauty of his creation. Walking under the hush of the skies while all air traffic was grounded, in the quiet of the coastline railroad while all trains were were held at their stations.

I don't want to add to my mind's available stock of imagery about that experience just yet, for fear their intensity will burn over what is my very own.

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I am not trying to start a political debate, but upon hearing about this film's release, due to my conditioning and political persuasion, I did not expect a Hollywood blockbuster to be heroic or championing a certain form of American patriotism. I didn't expect the opposite either, just something flat and straightforward. At least, that was my first reaction.

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Nardis, you state that a lot of people, including yourself, do not need to see these images, but would you stop this film from being distributed and viewed? It alsmot sounds to me like you are upset that this film exists.

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::I do not believe it is too early if the intent is to help us put a visual on our traumatic experience. This can be very healing as the cognitive mind deals with the emotional trauma.

This may depend on the viewer's proximity to the trauma. In my work with combat veterans, I find the majority of them are still traumatized by exposure to war movies. Oftentimes, this even crosses over beyond the specific war they experienced; e.g., Vietnam vets feeling deeply disturbed by a WWII flick.

So, perhaps for the Midwesterner with no relatives in the Northeast, this may be constructive. I worry about those in NYC and DC, however...

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::I do not believe it is too early if the intent is to help us put a visual on our traumatic experience. This can be very healing as the cognitive mind deals with the emotional trauma.

This may depend on the viewer's proximity to the trauma. In my work with combat veterans, I find the majority of them are still traumatized by exposure to war movies. Oftentimes, this even crosses over beyond the specific war they experienced; e.g., Vietnam vets feeling deeply disturbed by a WWII flick.

So, perhaps for the Midwesterner with no relatives in the Northeast, this may be constructive. I worry about those in NYC and DC, however...

Good point, Andrew. One of the things I find with Post Traumatic Stress is that discussing films which deal with their trauma brings about some cohesion of thought and feeling. That's one of my goals in the types of discussion questions I write, and I sometimes use it in my practice. Do you find that true?

For example, in The Butterfly Effect I have this as my first discussion question:

DISCUSSION

1. When Evan discovers that

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Ifound this article in the popular press of a psychiatrist named Fuat Ulus. He uses film clips in his office. I don't do that, I refer to and raise questions about and sometimes send to see. (More for others issues than PTS)

The article says:

Ulus is among a handful of therapists who find movies or clips from movies helpful in treating patients.

"Patients are more receptive to discussing issues that are somewhat removed from them, played out by characters on a screen, rather than directly confronting those issues from their own lives," said Ulus, who has been using movie therapy for several years.

He's recently written "Movie Therapy, Moving Therapy!" -- a guidebook for therapists interested in using movies -- and is developing a weekly movie therapy program in the Erie area that would be open to the public.

"Therapists have used movies for a long time, but in an informal way," said Birgit Wolz, an Oakland, Calif., therapist who's been using movies in group therapy sessions for nearly a decade.

Directly related to your experience with veterans he says,

He's also used "The Deer Hunter" to help Vietnam War veterans open up about post-traumatic stress disorder.

My experience is similar to this statement:

therapists might use a movie or segment that illustrates a situation or condition that a patient is experiencing -- whether the patient realizes it or not. The patient might find it easier to confront his own issue after seeing how someone in a movie handles a similar situation.

"The movies really go to the deeper layers of the consciousness," Wolz said. "The movies are a catalyst for the experiences people go through."

"You can talk about it sometimes easier if it's happening to someone else," said Dallas-Fort Worth area therapist John W. Hesley, who along with his wife, Jan G. Hesley, wrote the 1998 book, "Rent Two Films and Let's Talk in the Morning: Using Popular Movies in Psychotherapy."

Here's another article on the subject appropriately titled: Analyze This: Doctors are now prescribing movies as therapy. Also in popular press it quotes the book mentioned above:

But, while Freud used mythology to analyze the human condition, today

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::Are you familiar with the plot of Foer's novel?

No, I'm not...but after reading your post, I checked out the Publishers' Weekly review at Amazon, and it sounds quite interesting. So, maybe the last clause in my previous post was a bit overstated.

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Thanks, Denny - that's some great stuff, much of which I was unfamiliar with (though curiously enough, I'd just read a blurb on Ulus on Wednesday). Sprengnether's book looks like it would be of particular interest; I'll definitely be looking into purchasing it. I certainly see the point of this quote - "Because films galvanize feelings, they increase the probability that clients will carry out new and desired behaviours" - since any meaningful therapeutic interpretation must couple strong emotion with substantive rational/relational content.

I have to admit, though, that my reluctance to employ these techniques in my own practice persists, for the reasons I mentioned previously. To paraphrase one of Darrel's comments from another thread, films are a Rohrschach of sorts, and one cannot be sure that a patient would share our filmic interpretation or viewing biases. (I hope it's clear, by the way, that I'm only questioning my ability to use this technique in my current practice population, and not disparaging your use of it; I greatly value your thought-provoking comments here.)

And thank you, Ellen - between your comments and the PW review, I suspect I'll be looking for Foer's book at my local library.

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An Iraqi actor who plays in United 93 has been denied a visa to come see the movie's US premiere.

Edited by GreetingsEarthling

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You are welcome, Andrew. It was good to do some more study/thinking. I did find that there are several names used for this newer tool. The one that seems to be coming to the forefront is CINEMATHERAPY.

It will be intresting to see how cinema is used. Back in the 70's I was trained in PSYCHODRAMA and in some ways this is a safer way to accomplish the same thing without all the transference and countertransference problems we have with psychodrama.

Here is the cinematherapy.com website. It is not the best on this, but does address some interesting aspects of this!

I did not take anything you said as a slight - you are always a gracious participant on this board.

Denny

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The film is getting good reviews so far. I read Dennis Lim's from the Village Voice, who ends his review with this talk of a slight change between the film he saw and the one that will be released:

Whatever Greengrass's intentions, his film's closing moments essentially memorialize 9-11 Bush style, as an occasion for revenge. Painful as this movie is, it's even more excruciating to imagine how it might play in some of the country's multiplexes.

Update: United's State

As noted above, this review of United 93 was based on an unfinished print. Since then, Universal has excised the concluding title card, which read, "America's war on terror had begun." The final caption now reads: "Dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001."

The old caption sounds like the rhetoric I was afraid the film would use. I like the change, and what I am reading about the film. It sounds like Greengrass was the right choice.

I still don't know if I'll see it, but I've backed off of my initial judgement.

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Clint M wrote:

: However, it was a different era, and a more clearly defined enemy.

The very fact that Islamism is not considered a "clearly defined enemy" is reason enough to make this movie. We need the reminder.

Jeff wrote:

: According to the film's IMDB page, it is rated R, but an appeal is expected. I wonder how graphic the violence

: gets?

I don't recall it being particularly graphic -- certainly Greengrass sticks to his style of focusing on the tension rather than the brutality, as he did in, e.g., The Bourne Supremacy.

The film does have several f-words, which alone would get the R rating.

Andrew wrote:

: . . . this feels way too exploitative and voyeuristic.

Simply because it exists? What about the trailer showing all the surviving family members voicing their support for the movie?

: It was quite jarring even to see a preview for this, especially when followed by the stylized violence of MI-3.

No argument there. At the press screening I attended, we first saw a trailer for that Vince Vaughn - Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, which was arguably an inappropriate juxtaposition.

Denny Wayman wrote:

: As already mentioned by others, I do not believe it is too early if the intent is to help us put a visual on our

: traumatic experience. This can be very healing as the cognitive mind deals with the emotional trauma.

: However, if the purpose is to increase our anger toward enemies or to bring some sense of hero-worship, then

: it is too early.

I don't think you have anything to worry about. We live in a culture where something doesn't seem "real" until a movie has been made about it, and on that level alone, this film needed to be made. And one of the remarkable things about this film is how few, if any, individual characters really stand out. The "Let's roll" line is practically thrown away -- instead of giving us a heroic close-up on someone, the camera is pointing down the aisle of the plane and it's not really clear who, exactly, says it.

If you come to this film, as I did, without a thorough knowledge of what the real-life characters looked like or acted like, then you probably won't have a clue which individual is which. What the film captures rather well is SOCIAL action, more than INDIVIDUAL action.

Oddly enough, the individual character that I feel the most interest in, when all is said and done, is the leader of the Islamists. The reasons for this are partly visual, partly in the writing, partly because he almost has the closest thing to a "character arc", even though that term really doesn't apply to ANY of these characters.

nardis wrote:

: A lot of us do *not* need to see pictures of this . . .

And a lot of us do. There's room for both sorts.

Dennis Lim wrote:

: Whatever Greengrass's intentions, his film's closing moments essentially memorialize 9-11 Bush style, as an

: occasion for revenge. . . .

: As noted above, this review of United 93 was based on an unfinished print. Since then, Universal has excised

: the concluding title card, which read, "America's war on terror had begun."

Huh. I don't necessarily see that as a pro-Bush spin on the whole thing, depending on what else the title cards had said. (There MUST have been something else between the final scene and that title card; there are certainly other title cards there NOW.) If you added quote marks to "war on terror", maybe that would make it more neutral.

The only thing in this film that feels even remotely like a sop to pro-war-on-terror types, to me, is the depiction of one passenger who insists on co-operating with the terrorists ... and who speaks with what sounds, to me at least, like a German accent. (Germany being one of the countries that was particularly opposed to the "war on terror" and all.)

Oh, and ...

Link to original 'movies about 9/11' thread.

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Coming out of the tonight's screening, I want to say: I don't get the "It's too early" meme. At all.

It is not exploitative. It is not manipulative. It is not strident or judgmental. It does not demonize or lionize anybody. It is as restrained, as respectful, as deeply moving a tribute to the passengers of United Flight 93 (not to mention assorted key players on the ground) as I can imagine a film being.

As a New York area resident who watched the WTC burn and fall with my own eyes, I am deeply appreciative of this film. My brother-in-law, who was actually in the vicinity of Ground Zero during the attacks, was my very reluctant guest tonight, having felt strongly ahead of time that he would never watch any film on this subject, but afterwards he was very grateful that he had been imposed upon to see it, and said afterward that he hopes that resistance to the subject matter will not prevent the film from finding the success it deserves.

Paul Greengrass has done an amazing job here. He has resisted all manner of temptations regarding conflicting agendas of various kinds, and against all odds he has told the story of Flight 93 with (what seems to me) extraordinary integrity.

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