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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Crew members and passengers are smart and heroic.
Violence & Scariness
CNN's footage of the WTC burning, and the second plane hitting the second tower, approximates characters' perspectives, at once horrifying and unbelievable (again); hijackers carry knives and fake bomb; throats/shoulders slashed, stabbing, and an assault by passengers on the hijackers that occurs mostly offscreen, but shows blood splatted on the wall from a skull crushed by a fire extinguisher; last images are harrowing, blurry and rushed and fragmented, until the plane crashes and the screen goes black.
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Language escalates as the action, frustration, and dread build; includes "damn," f-words, s-words, and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Mention of drinks at start, during cabin service.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film isn't for younger kids. Upsetting and provocative, it raises sophisticated questions about the construction of history and uses of memory. The movie includes frequent cuts that create tension and link scenes in the jet and air traffic control, military, and the FAA centers. The hijackers betray nervousness but remain resolute in pursuing what they see as their destiny. Television images of the second plane hitting the WTC recall 9/11 as most viewers experienced it. The final assault by passengers on the hijackers is particularly grim and violent, with ragged images and blood splattering on a wall. Some strong language. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Difficult and provocative, United 93 is an experience that is at once abstract, visceral, and sometimes overwhelmingly immediate. In reframing the event in and as TV images, the way so many people experienced it on 9/11, the film makes a devastating appeal to collective and individual memories. It also shapes those memories, framing them with Ben Sliney making decisions when no one else would (closing down all air space). In its fitful remembering, United 93 raises important questions (however reverentially) about the making of history. Who decides "what happened"? What is omitted? And how does any one point of view prevail over another? In creating identifiable heroes -- say, Todd Beamer (played here by David Alan Basche) or Thomas E. Burnett (Christian Clemenson), names that have circulated in the ever-expanding history/mythology mix of 9/11 -- the movie leaves other participants less visible.
The effort to fight back, the desperation and the fear, are all too visible, in shards more than coherent images. Close-ups show frantic and determined faces, praying, calling loved ones, setting their jaws in determination to "do something." Though no one can know exactly "what happened," this reimagining allows viewers to think the best of United 93's heroes. Director Paul Greenrass met with family members to secure their blessing as well as their input: "It tells a story," they say, "that needs to be told." This is no doubt true, though what that story is may be less clear. In this sense, it is like most history, not official, not even accurate, but essential.
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate