I saw United 93 at a matinee yesterday. My first thought on the movie is that this is definitely not a movie for everyone. This movie can upset you. I almost never get choked up or cry during a movie, but this movie was quit an experience. When the credits rolled at the end I felt like I had been on an amusement park ride for the hour and a half or however long the movie was. I think I had an increased heartbeat and probably some adrenaline circulating during the entire movie. Consequently, I felt pretty drained after I exited the movie. I was choked up when I talked to my wife on the cell phone about the movie and made plans to be picked up from the movie theater. I decided to go to a bookstore and read and get myself together before being picked up.
SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t seen the movie but plan to, you might want to skip this paragraph. You’ve been warned. There were no previews prior to the movie starting. When the movie started I wasn’t sure if I was watching United 93 or not until I saw the movie’s title. That was disorienting. The movie begins with the you watching the four terrorists who will hijack United 93 in their shared hotel room. They are each preparing for what they are about to do in their own way. There is quite a bit of praying. There is the concealing of knives under belts and final packing. They then leave the hotel room and head to the airport and remarkable pass through security without metal detection (the knives, two large batteries in a carry on used for a bomb – I don’t think the bomb was a real one that one of the terrorists constructed in the plane bathroom and used to keep the passengers at bay) and eventually board the plane. The movie then spends a lot of time switching back and forth between the FAA headquarters, the air traffic controllers in the Boston airport, New York airport, and Cleveland airport, and the military reactions at a military base (NORAD I think it was). The movie also cuts back to what is going on aboard United 93. There was also actual CNN footage incorporated into the movie showing the World Trade Center towers being hit and footage from the attack on the Pentagon. The movie’s portrayal of the events made it look like nothing was coordinated very well at all between the air traffic controllers, the FAA, and the military. Information was sketchy, confused, and often circulated late to other parties. I was scratching my head over why the military could only get four jet fighters in the air to cover the Eastern Seaboard, and later available fighters were unarmed and could only ram and have the pilot eject as a weapon. The military could not get a hold of either the President or Vice-President to make a call about rules of engagement (i.e., do they have permission to shoot down a commercial airliner). The FAA man in charge finally made a ballsy decision on his own to ground ALL incoming, outgoing, and flights currently in the air. He remarked that somebody is at war with us and until we figure out what is going on there will be no planes in the air. Approximately 4,200 planes were in the air the morning of September 11, 2001, according to the movie. One of the FAA managers remarked that such a decision would cost billions, but the FAA director stood firm, which I thought was very gutsy and made me proud. The last fourth of the movie stays with Flight 93 as the passengers learn about the other suicide planes from the air phones, say goodbye to their loved ones, and try desperately to retake the plane and get a small engine pilot into the cockpit to try and land the plane. We know how that ended…. The movie concluded with some facts/remarks in white letters on black screens and dedicated the movie to all of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. I was surprised and disappointed that there was not something that said part of the proceeds from the movie will go to a September 11th charity. I think it is a bit obscene to make a movie like this and not donate some of the profits towards a September 11th charity. I felt a little guilty and hypocritical for going to see the movie at this point. I heard people sniffing during the movie and saw people wiping their eyes. I found it very interesting that as people were exiting the theater they all seemed especially courteous, polite, and more patient with each other. That was very cool to experience. A very powerful movie. Worth seeing if you can stomach it.
I entered another poetry contest yesterday. That makes nine contests total this year. Two of them have already announced their winners. This morning I finished the last two stanzas and added a third to a new poem that has been stalled for over two months. I think I have a good first draft, and I’m looking forward to revising it. I left Starbucks on a creative high. I felt powerful and things around me all seemed more vivid and full of hidden meaning. I also think a couple of young women were eyeing me appreciatively while I was writing. That is always a nice feeling and makes me feel younger than I am.
Okay, this is kind of creepy. I just finished my takeout Chinese food as I write this and opened my fortune cookie. On the front side the fortune is:
Instead of worrying and agonizing move ahead constructively.
That’s not a fortune, but it could apply helpfully to my writing life. What was creepy though was the “Learn Chinese” word on the back: Jiu-yue - September. Cue the X Files theme music please.