Paul Greengrass’ reconstruction of the events of 9/11 Essay

On September 11th 2001 terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes. Two of these planes where intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, causing both buildings to collapse and bringing total devastation to everything around it. The third plane was crashed into The Pentagon causing minor damage, but the fourth plane has a fascinating story. People probably haven’t heard about this plane as much as the first two but flight United 93 was full of heroic passangers who tried to fight off the hijackers. Unfortunately they lost their lives when the plane crashed into a field somewhere near Pennsylvania.

Including the 19 hijackers, 3017 people died as a result of the hijackings. This was the day the world stood still.

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I can’t really remember 9/11 mainly due to the fact I was only 7 years old at the time but also because we weren’t told much about it. I was in school when the hijackings took place and I can remember my teachers all with anxious looks on their faces. I first realised what had happened when I arrived home from school and BBC News was on with a continuous playing of the second plane hitting the second tower. However, the image that sticks in my thought the most is that the people inside the building where just ordinary people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Paul Greengrass’ reconstruction of the events of 9/11 is a brilliant piece of filmmaking and United 93 presents a real-time realistic portrayal of the events. Unlike a Hollywood blockbuster showing really heroic characters who ‘save the day’ it shows just ordinary people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. This film still depicts one of the most terrifying hardships the United States has ever had to face. The passenger’s heroism is show by the courageous acts of the people on board who had to make a decision very quickly.

The film starts in an ordinary New York apartment with the terrorists reciting from the Qu’ran. This shows the audience the religious beliefs behind the hijack which makes you think whether people should have gone that far just for their religion. The next scene is the terrorists arriving at the airport and listening to people that will get on the flight they are about to hijack saying to their families that they love them and they will see tthem soon.

The brilliant thing about this film is that we know what the outcome is going to be but yet we still want the passengers to somehow overcome the terrorists.

I think the way Paul Greengrass portrays the passengers in the plane is remarkable by not using any ‘well known faces’ eg. Bruce Willis and not depicting the characters as ‘heroic’ – yes they do all try and take over the plane but no-one stands out as a hero trying to ‘save the day’.

Also I think the way Greengrass makes the film unfold in ‘real-time’ is very effective because it shows the whole thing than flicking through the whole film because it shows that the people on the plane actually had to go through this.

Towards the end of the film Greengrass shows how the terrorists’ plan begins to crumble because they get cold feet and become very nervous thinking that they wont have enough time. Four terrorists are on the plane and when the passengers start to rebel, two of them are killed by the passengers. The other two have twenty minutes to go before they reach their ‘target’, but they can’t hold out that long and are eventually put under pressure by the passengers, breaking into the cabin and eventually they make them crash into a field.

In conclusion I believe that this movie is brilliant in every way and form. It is impossible to watch and not imagine you and your loved ones in that situation – and this is where the film is an immense success.


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