'United 93': A Great Film That's Hard to Recommend

Full disclosure: I did not want to see "United 93," the controversial Sept. 11 film that opens today, after premiering at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival, which, ironically, was started after 9-11.

This film is the story of the hijacked Boeing 757 that crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers struggled to retake the cockpit from terrorists. It's not easy to watch, but "United 93" is great filmmaking, and it's sure to make my "Ten Best" this year.

The action and stomach-churning tension in this film doesn't happen on the flight but in the air traffic control centers, where many of the cast members are playing themselves. And how they lived through this horror a second time, I'll never know.

The quick camera moves -- sometimes handheld, sometimes out of focus -- create a hyper realism, docudrama raised to a new level.

No Applause, Just Sobs

Many of the most effective scenes are played out in real time, and there are no recognizable stars. If we saw Denzel Washington in row four or Harrison Ford in seat 7B, we'd feel in our hearts someone would save the day. On this day, we know in our gut no one does.

You'll notice that there's no musical swells, and no pregnant pauses punctuating the dialogue. That would make it a movie.

The soundtrack, too, is perfect for the dialog. In the beginning, waiting for Flight 93 to take off, it's percussion, made to sound like a heartbeat. At the end, when Flight 93 hits the ground, there's no sound, no explosion, no crash. The screen goes black.

And from the audience, no applause. Sobs. Real, deep, heartfelt sobs. That's why I can't recommend you see this movie. Only you will know if you can. It is that close to being there. Grade: A-.