I don’t want to see this movie, but I suspect I will – if only to satisfy my curiosity and put some demons to rest.
I worry about this flick. Although it tells of real events, it is nonetheless a fictionalized account. Captured in documentary style (which will, to the unreflective viewer, lend validity to its “truthfulness”), it’s also a disaster-in-the air action flick.
And because it will no doubt be a blockbuster, this film will mythologize the story of Flight 93 and serve as the historical text of that flight for most Americans. It will become a master narrative.
The tale is pieced together from cell phone records and cockpit recordings – but we truly don’t know all the details of what happened on board that plane that day. And so the details of our master narrative will be fleshed out with fiction.
You might recall that shortly after 9/11, the story of Flight 93 revolved around Todd Beamer, one of the passengers on the plane that rushed the hi-jackers. He was raised up on high as a great American hero, and perhaps he was, but the media’s focus on Beamer left other passengers’ tales by the wayside, most notably, Mark Bingham, who also, according to cell phone records and cockpit recordings, played as equally a heroic role as Beamer. He just didn’t have the same posthumous publicity campaign. And he didn’t utter a commonly used, cliché phrase over the phone either – “Let’s roll!” - as Beamer did. Later, entrepreneurs tried to capitalize on that phrase, using it to hawk their T-shirts and other 9/11 souvenir wares. In response, the Todd Beamer Foundation tried to trademark the phrase. Insanity all the way around.
But back to the flick. I wonder whose story is being told in this film. And how real it is; how truthful. Most viewers will forget, or have never understood to begin with, that when you treat a historical event via the Hollywood lens, you fictionalize it , aggrandize it – what’s on the screen isn’t necessarily what happened that day – nor is it necessarily what didn’t happen that day.
I concede that exploring major events through “art” helps us understand those events. What I worry about is that United 93 will be the major way we, as Americans, re-vision that day and that event; the movie will become our primary text, our master narrative of that event, rather than just one of many ways to make sense of, to understand what happened to the people on that plane, to the people on the ground, and to us – all of us – that day.