Thursday, March 15, 2007

[DVD] United 93 (2006)

There have been movies about that dark day in history that will always be remembered for the almost movie-like feel to the tragedy that unfolded in the eyes of many, through the news channels on their television sets. One of the earliest films set around the events of Sept 11 2001 was Spike Lee's 25th Hour, though it had nothing directly involving the events, but I remembered it having one scene in which Edward Norton's character was looking down at the WTC site from inside a room. Last year had 2 movies directly depicting the events, one from Oliver Stone with his World Trade Center, and the other, United 93 which didn't make it to the local screens.

Much of what actually transpired were based on the Commission report, and from what happened that day in the various control centers, as well as calls made to family members. It's played out as it is, never to finger point any particular one group in the blame game of who could have done something, or not. You'd come to appreciate that certain things which happened, like the military exercise, was just as it is, and whether it could have helped prevented or done something to the unfortunate, will always remain unanswered. And with the numerous agencies, hierarchies and levels that exist in problem escalation, it is indeed a fight with time to ascertain facts and to dispel hearsay and rumours. Especially during crises where information getting through the noise is difficult, and decisions need to be made on clear, concise facts. What's more, everyone's dealing with an unprecedented event with no reference of any kind to rely on.

Casting virtually unknowns, director Paul Greengrass has crafted a tale which he says is a believable truth. Nobody knows for sure what had happened during United 93's final flight, and the events that led to the crash in Pennsylvania. But one thing's for sure, the passengers and crew fought back, and in doing so, self-sacrificed heroic to save many more lives down on the ground, should the plane hit another monument, or went down in a populated city area.

If anything, United 93 is a salute to the brave men and women onboard the flight, It doesn't glamourise and neither is it quick to condemn, It played out the event as best as it could using whatever information can be gleaned from public domain as well as private details from family, and it ends where it should, without being overtly sentimental, or sounding the patriotic bugle.

This is a movie that one should watch, and watch with the director's commentary turned on as Greengrass offered more than just a scene by scene description, discussing everything from pre-production preparation work, details on why certain scenes were shot the way they were, and plenty of nuggets of information from both the events of the day, as well as the production details.

The menus of the Code 3 DVD from Universal are quite nicely designed, drawing inspiration from a typical radar screen for the menu's fonts and background. Visual transfer is crisp, and you can choose between a 2.0 or 5.1 surround sound in various languages supported - English, Japanese and Thai. You have a host of subtitles available besides those already mentioned, in Korean, Indonesian and Mandarin. Perhaps one of the irritants on the disc is the Anti-Piracy campaign ad, which you cannot skip or fast forward, as it plays at the beginning after you make your language of choice selection.

Besides the scene selection capability, the other extras put here include a 60 minute documentary titled United 93: The Families and The Film, as well as a series of Memorial Pages of the 40 passengers and crew on board the flight. Containing their biographies, it is an intense read into their lives, spanning multiple pages, but the navigation could have been improved to allow the user to go back to the sub-menu, or to continue on to the next biography, rather than having the user click all the way back, or to return to the main menu.

The only documentary included, United 93: The Families and The Film is moving and touching, as you get introduced to the families of the victims of that flight, and how the actors playing their respective family members got to meet them, and find out more about how the actual persons were like, from their family, relatives and friends. It's not easy to obtain the permission from all the direct families, and to see them come together for a special screening, it was a kind of closure for them, in certain sense. This documentary runs almost 60 minutes.

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