In his intro to the Village Voice‘s Tribeca picks (some sounding a little grudging â€” was 40 an arbitrary goal?), J. Hoberman surveys the sprawl that is the festival’s fifth year and writes that "The festival is a triumph of branding, but has it found its niche? Like the city it celebrates, Tribeca has proven resilient, but like New York, it’s far too sprawling and abrasive to ever attain the grooviness of SXSW or the exclusivity of Telluride. Marketingâ€”yes. Marketâ€”we’ll see." He calls the festival "the
first 9-11 memorial, and surely the most upbeat," while referring to opening night’s "United 93" as "the movie everyone I know is afraid
On that topic, there are now three early reviews out of Paul Greengrass‘ film, two positive and one not. In a measured piece at the Voice, Dennis Lim calls it "at once scrupulous and ghoulish, visceral and sober," and "best understood as a memorial," though he does write that
‘United 93"’s claim to authority is precisely its biggest problem. Greengrass has been grandiose in his public statements: The film aims to arrive at "a believable truth" and may even reveal "the DNA of our times." Its quasi-vÃ©ritÃ© suggests an implicit fidelity, when what’s in operation is at best imaginative empathy and at worst arrogance, an obviously untenable assertion that this is how it happened.
He seems to be looking at the film with a bit of remove, but it’s still an undeniable recommendation. Less reserved is Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum, who concludes:
Do we need to see this? No. There’s no right or wrong way to remember
9/11, no shame in skipping the movie-fied sight or prize for those who
dare to look. Do we benefit from recognizing, in United 93, that
there’s no difference between those who died and us, in fear and in
And at The Hot Button, David Poland weighs in:
Ultimately, "United 93" leads to a dozen people fighting for their lives over about 12 minutes. Is there a message about the overall event? I don’t see it. I think that an unflinching examination of the people on that plane might have held deep secrets, even untold. I think that the impotency of the men in the air traffic control rooms around America, especially those who are supposed to have control of our protective forces, might have offered great insights.
But all I see in "United 93" is a beautifully made, well-acted, earnest, well-intended human horror show that brings an event in American history to life, though mostly as a guess.
On the wires today, Claudia Parsons gathers quotes from the family members of those who died on the flight, who seem a fairly supportive and magnanimous bunch.
At his blog, Army Archerd talks to Universal’s Ron Meyer: "And yes, he admits that the studio was ‘very careful’ not only in the telling of the story but in its advertising, that is, the trailer. ‘But everyone (at Universal) felt that this story needed to be told.’ "
And at the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein prepares to take on all comers on the "Too soon?" question:
While I respect the fact that New Yorkers in particular may see this issue in a very different light from the rest of us, I think everyone is looking at this film, made by British writer-director Paul Greengrass, through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of asking "Is it too soon?" I wish people would say, "What took so long?"
For 4 1/2 years, not a week, perhaps even a day, has gone by without mention of Sept. 11. Our newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories, often illustrated by graphic photographs of the tragedy. Stacks of books have been written. The war on terrorism has been a central focus of our political lives. So many documentaries and TV movies have been made about 9/11 that reviewers now contrast the new offerings the way film critics compare vintage versus latter-day Scorsese films. The playing of never-before-heard tapes detailing the frantic chaos in Flight 93’s cockpit made headlines last week as jurors pondered the fate of Al Qaeda zealot Zacarias Moussaoui.
With emotions obviously still running high, it’s no wonder some people seem so wary of Hollywood weighing in on the subject. But it seems disingenuous for those of us in the media, after having exhaustively explored every possible 9/11-related nook and cranny, to suddenly express outrage or brow-furrowing concern over the specter of Hollywood finally tackling the issue. After all, Greengrass went ahead with the film only after soliciting permission from â€” and working closely with â€” the family members of the 40 crew members and passengers on the flight.
It’s been hard for us to put our ambivalence about this film into words â€” we haven’t seen it and doubt we will, but not out of any particular sensitivity that not enough time has passed, though we don’t buy Goldstein’s arguments that, because there have been 9/11 docs and cheesy television movies, Hollywood’s take is no big deal.
It is a big deal. It’s a feature film, a carefully scripted product with a cast that includes a few, while not famous, certainly recognizable actors. It’s fiction with a gleam of prestige, "based on true events," however well researched, and other than those made-for-TV flicks, which benefit from being in bad taste, there’s been very little in fictional literature, cinema, or television that’s directly taken on 9/11. This is untread ground, partially because of all the tough questions it raises â€” what is a 9/11 feature to accomplish? Is it entertainment? Is it, as Lim suggests, a memorial, capturing some idea of those midair moments in cinematic amber? Is it didactic, is it sentimental?
We have no doubt that Greengrass’ film is in somber good taste (though we do wish he would quit with the gradiose statements about it and let it stay that way). But ultimately, that’s beside the point…we’ve tried to imagine a fiction film about the events of 9/11 that we’d want to see, and we can’t. There’s just nothing there for us, nothing that filtering events through a dramatic arc and flashy editing could say that the news footage hasn’t said more eloquently.
+ The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival (Village Voice)
+ A Flight to Remember (Village Voice)
+ United 93 (Entertainment Weekly)
+ April 19, 2006 (The Hot Button)
+ Victims’ relatives say 9/11 film not profiteering (Reuters)
+ United on "United 93"? (ArmyArcherd.com)
+ It’s time we looked (LA Times)