As yet another September 11th anniversary comes and goes, I thought I'd suggest a film I watched several years ago about United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed into a farm field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard. At the time, I hesitated to check it out, knowing the awful outcome; but on the basis of a number of favorable reviews, I felt almost an obligation to see it and was glad that I did. Director Paul Greengrass's imagining of what transpired on the doomed plane is filmed in a documentary style using mostly unknown actors. All the action unfolds as the events take place with no histories of any of the characters and no flashbacks. The story alternates between the increasingly terrified passengers and the bewildered air traffic controllers, and military and government officials on the ground. There are a few intense scenes of violence, but they are few and very short. All the characters, whether air controllers, passengers, or terrorists, are presented as ordinary human beings. There is no fingerpointing by the director, no political commentary.
Although it might seem a strange comparison, as this film drew to its close, I was reminded of the scene in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds in which the camera draws back and we see birds circling high above a ruined bay in flames -- no narration, just silent watching. Even so, the desperate efforts of the passengers to seize control of the plane is enormously moving; this film is highly recommended.