Mary, Howard and I saw United 93 yesterday. I'm glad I saw the movie though I certainly didn't enjoy it -- as I told them over chocolate malts afterwards, I have no idea if United 93 is any good, but it sure is effective.
I was filled with this sick feeling, this sense of dread, during the entire first part of the film. I had thought it was going to stick to portraying what happened on that particular flight on September 11, but we also got a good dose of what was going on in various air traffic control centers along the eastern seaboard. Many of the actors in those scenes aren't actors at all but real people playing themselves, and that touch of reality only heightened my discomfort. As first American Airlines Flight 11 and then others stopped responding to calls on their radios -- and then changed their courses -- my nausea grew, until at about the halfway point I could easily have left my theatre seat, walked calmly to the women's room, and thrown up. Amazingly, once the terrorists made their move on Flight 93, I calmed down.
I only cried quite near the end. The way I'd always heard it was that the passengers were somehow aware that they were headed towards the Capitol Building and knew they were doomed; their decision to overpower the terrorists meant that they were sacrificing their own lives to save others'. But that's not how it went in the movie. Here, the passengers learned that among them was a pilot; he didn't fly commercial jets, but he felt that if the other passengers could get the terrorist piloting the plane away from the controls, he could keep the plane aloft and safe and could, a la Airport, land them all safely with help via the radio. Is there evidence that this really happened? I don't know, but the thought that these poor people had hope for their own survival made me lose it and start crying.
The last shot in the movie is from the perspective of the cockpit window, as the Pennsylvania field where the plane crashed rushes up towards the camera -- and then blackness. It would have been the perfect finish to the film; but I also would have started sobbing uncontrollably, so I was a tiny bit thankful for the few sentences that appeared on the screen describing the events of that day. It gave me a moment to gather myself and wipe my eyes before leaving the theatre.
Although I'm glad I saw United 93, I'm not going to try to convince others to go. People will either want to see it or they won't. I'm guessing this movie is going to tank because most folks are going to be afraid or will think the subject matter is distasteful, both of which seem like valid responses. All I know is, I have no regrets about seeing it, but I never need to again.