Not Quite Ready For A 9/11 Film

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - April 12, 2006
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Are you ready for this?

I just pulled up a trailer on the Internet for the first major Hollywood movie on the 9-11 tragedy. It’s called United 93 and opens in theaters this month. Looks like the film will be pretty matter-of-fact, not cheap or cheesy.

Still, watching events unfold on a dramatization that was less than three minutes long took me back to what probably was the longest day of my life.

Many of you, I know, will feel the same way.

United 93 is just the first in what will be several films opening this year that will tell the stories of Sept. 11. It was to be expected. Popular culture always catches up to real life sooner or later. The question, for me personally - is it too soon?

I could barely watch the trailer. We know what will happen to these passengers. But up till now we have had to imagine what their last moments were like based on the timeline, the telephone calls and the evidence all pieced together like a puzzle. The movie will put it all out there - terror, anguish, courage. We’ll see actual news footage of the towers being hit and then crashing to the ground. We’ll watch the passengers calling for help, connecting with operators or loved ones, figuring out what, exactly, was going on - and deciding finally to take matters into their own hands. It’s a big, epic story made for the movies, sort of like Titanic. The difference is we’re not emotionally invested in that disaster, it happened so long ago.

I’m not saying the movie is a bad thing. It will remind us again of the awful reality of terrorism. The filmmaker, by all accounts, went to great lengths to work with and be sensitive to the families involved. And when, really, is the right time for such a movie, five years, seven years, 10 years after the event? Sept. 11 is a reality. It changed our lives. We think of it every time we board a plane or pass through security to go to a concert. We cannot ignore the fact that it happened.

Still, no matter how you look at it, the movie exploits a tragedy that is still raw to a great many people. It has to make money, which means it has to be promoted in order to get you to go see it. The way you sell it is by employing all the techniques of good filmmaking in that short little trailer - building tension, pumping up the music, giving us glimpses of the people who are going to die. It is effective. It grabbed my attention, and I’m pretty sure it’s a film that’ll take us inside the heads and hearts of the doomed heroes.

So I’ll see it someday. But right now it’s not for me. I’m just not ready to sit in a darkened room with a bag of popcorn and a Coke - and experience the horror once again.

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