By Doug Brunell | May 25, 2006

She looked at me in disbelief and said, “In case you didn’t know, ÔUnited 93’ is based on a true story. It was made to honor those heroes on that plane.”
Was there anyone in America who didn’t know that? What was it about me that made her say that? Oh yeah, it was when I said, “I’m not surprised Hollywood decided to exploit this tragedy. I’m just surprised by how long it took. Now that it’s done, though, people don’t have to believe it’s real anymore.”
I’ve heard people describe the film as “sobering,” “tragic” and “sorrowful.” All are beautiful words. I’m sure they are very accurate, too. One viewer described how patriotic she felt after watching it. It made me wonder if she headed right to her local recruiting office after taking it in. My guess is that she hit the gym to work off the popcorn weight instead. That’s the mentality involved here.
If you paid attention to the time leading up to the film, there were people asking why Hollywood made the movie. They were surprised and thought it may be in “bad taste” to make the film so soon after the tragedy. “Bad taste” has never stopped Hollywood before. The thing people should’ve been concerned about was the reasoning behind the picture. Was it to serve as a reminder of something that happened just a few short years ago (I know Americans’ memories are short, but …), or was it a carefully crafted vehicle that placed itself on the fence between serious (and perhaps Oscar worthy) film and guaranteed money maker/controversy generator? Most likely both mindsets were in place.
It’s hard to have any real discussion about “United 93.” People have such knee-jerk reactions that debate can only really stray into the “Should It Have Been Made So Soon?” category. You can’t question the real motivations behind the film, and you definitely can’t bring up the idea that 9/11 may have been the bill for our government’s long history of exploitation, greed and its own brand of terrorism throughout the world (and at home). When you do that people start to get upset.
Great films should inspire debate. They should get people talking one way or another. “United 93” was lucky that the debate it would inspire would be one that ultimately went nowhere. Because of the subject matter, the people behind the movie were shielded from some of the most damning accusations that can be leveled their way. To be honest, our government’s policies aren’t really the filmmakers’ fault. If you’re going to make this kind of movie, however, I think there should be some questions raised in the course of the film. That said, I understand shying away from it and just showing it as it was without any political commentary.
In case you haven’t guessed, Hollywood is nothing but cowards.
Did anyone coming out of “United 93” feeling any better about themselves or our country? Did anyone really sit there and ponder why this happened in the first place? Did anyone come out and say, “Those people on the plane were heroes, but when it comes right down to it, this is going to happen again and again until America stops trying to dominate the world?” I doubt it. Instead, I picture people coming out with the same expression they’d have at the end of a funeral. I see them tossing their soda cups into the overflowing trash, getting into their cars and driving off to their next engagement without ever connecting “United 93” to the government. The movie helped remind them of 9/11 as it helped them disconnect. The terrorists became more real (because they were on the screen), but the reasons behind the act disappeared.
If people really wanted to honor the heroes of “United 93” they’d do their best to make sure the US didn’t act in ways that would foster the kind of environment terrorists thrive in. If you don’t understand that statement, do some research. You really want to honor those heroes, you don’t make a film about them without really investigating what led to their sacrifice, and you definitely don’t watch it without asking some very serious questions.
“United 93” didn’t honor anyone or anything in any meaningful way. Instead, it was a funeral pyre for bad memories. Don’t you worry, though. We’ll have a chance to be reminded of all this in just another few short years. I can guarantee it.

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