Essays · Movies

Is it too soon for these 9/11 films?

By  · Published on March 27th, 2006

Just this morning I watched for the first time, the trailer for the newly re-titled United 93. This film was very recently called Flight 93. As the title eludes to, this is a film that chronicles the doomed 4th plane that was hijacked on the morning of September 11, 2001. The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, whose previous work includes Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Supremacy. This trailer, unlike the previously released trailer for the film, shows actual footage, including but not limited to the terrorist hijackers and the other planes hitting the World Trade Center. And normally after seeing any trailer, I am left with a sense of whether or not the film looks interesting enough to see. Sadly this film disturbs me.

Along with Oliver Stone‘s World Trade Center, this film represents what I can forsee as a upcoming slue of 9/11 films. And I am forced to deal with the internal conflict of whether it is too soon to be seeing movies such as this. I consider of some of the great films that have chronicled horrific tragedies in the history of man, Schindler’s List comes to mind, and I think about their timeliness and relevancy. Schinder’s List was made in 1993, long after the Holocaust had been over. And even though there are some in this world who are forever scared by the events that took place during that time period, there was a significant gap needed before a very powerful and honest film could be made portraying these events.

I believe the same is true about the tragic events of 9/11, indisputably the most horrific tragedy in the history of the United States. And while not all of us were there in New York, every American was impacted on that day more than any other day in their lives. It changed so much of how we live, and for a time took us hostage with the fear that it may happen again. So why relive that fear now? Why bring back the vivid images of such an unnerving event to the generation that lived through it? I understand wanting to tell the stories of all the heroes, and wanting to bring light to what really happened on board Flight 93 and inside the WTC, but maybe we should leave it to the documentaries for now.

The other emerging problem in my mind is that with every new trailer I see for one of these films, no matter how disturbing it may be, I also see the gross potential to turn the events of 9/11 into a collection of scenes from movies like Air Force One. The potential to cheapen the film and make it another action flick is almost strikingly apparent in the Flight 93 trailer, which depicts clips of a control room where decisions are being made whether or not to shoot the plane down. And while we do not have the ability to truly tell if this is the case until the film comes out in late April, I can see that the potential is there for disaster.

In the end I believe that these films may be met with resistance from the American public. No matter how great their production value, no matter how compelling their story, and no matter how accurate they are, the question will remain unanswered, at least for now, as to whether the American people are really ready to relive such a deeply wounding event with such a short time of healing. The success of these films will not be a question of their quality, but a question of the readiness of the minds and hearts of the people of America. I for one am not sure whether I am ready to see such a disturbing display of inhumanity on screen again, as I have already seen it once. I watched it live.

Technorati: 9/11, New York, Flight 93, World Trade Center, Terrorism, Documentary, Hollywood, Entertainment, Drama, History, War, WTC

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)