Published April 26, 2006
"United 93" is a movie of firsts. It was made from the heart and not to make money, certainly. It’s a short movie but one that you never want to see end — not because the story is so appealing, but because you know what the end is, and you never want it to come.
That must have been how the audience sitting in the balcony of the Ziegfeld theater -- the family members of those who died on the doomed flight -- felt last night at the film’s premiere.
When the 93-minute movie ended — in silence, not an explosion — the people in the balcony sobbed in a way I have never heard before in a movie house.
It was gut wrenching, and it was terrifying. I don’t know if "United 93" has given them closure or permission to keep reliving this horror.
Peter Greengrass has made an extraordinary document for them of what their relatives must have gone through in their final hour of life.
“United 93” is beautifully crafted, thoughtful and precise. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it has the polish of perfection, hitting every note, dotting every “i,” crossing every “t.” You have to admire the stamina of everyone involved that they were able to pull off such a feat.
We know the story, so we don’t have to go into the details of that. Anyway, "United 93" depends, like all films, on making a connection with the actors.
And here’s where there is a significant surprise, because other than a small handful of professionals, the movie belongs to a total acolyte and newcomer.
Ben Sliney, national operations manager for the FAA at Kennedy Airport, was in the control tower when the tragedies of Sept. 11 unfolded. He later testified before the 9/11 Commission.
A professional actor was hired to play him in the movie, but after Sliney arrived on set, he took over the job of playing himself. It’s one of those strange Hollywood stories, but Ben Sliney turns out to be the star of “United 93.”
If he wanted one, he could have an acting career, perhaps. Alas, he doesn’t seek the fame. But Sliney becomes the moral and sympathetic center of the story as chaos unfolds quickly. You keep hoping while he’s on screen that all the people in the FAA are like him.
Among the “real” actors, a few standout moments in a film that doesn’t offer many opportunities: Kate Jennings-Grant has a very emotional, key scene calling home from the plane; Peter Hermann shines as Jeremy Glick, leader of the insurgents; Christian Clemensen makes a strong impression, too, as do John Rothman, Simon Poland, Cheyenne Jackson, David Rasche and David Alan Basche (don’t confuse the last two). Kudos, too, to all the women who played the flight attendants.
The premiere last night was used for the fifth anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival — a festival that was created because of Sept. 11.
Founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal each spoke, and they were not the only celebrities in attendance. Tom Selleck, Steve and Jo Buscemi, Tony Bennett, Marcia Gay Harden, Scott Glenn, Barbara Kopple, Drew Nieporent and Damon Dash were among those who walked a solemn red carpet.
Stephen Daldry, director of "The Hours" and "Billy Elliott," wisely skipped the premiere of “Lestat” to be on hand.
After the screening, most of the audience was invited to a lavish buffet at the Four Seasons restaurant, where the family members could mix with the celebs and Hollywood suits (the publicists spun it as “a small dinner” even though it required buses to take the crowd over there).
The evening was notable though for the notables who did and did not show. Present were current police commish Ray Kelly and former fire chief Tom van Essen. Not seen at all were Rudy Giuliani, former police commish Bernie Kerik or current mayor Mike Bloomberg.
In the end, “United 93” probably cannot be judged in any unemotional way. Greengrass has done something amazing for these families by bringing alive what must exist in their imaginations and nightmares.
The power of this cannot be underestimated. He’s even made the hijackers interesting, if not sympathetic. I don’t know if the film has a box office life — it seems too intimate. But the DVD will sell, as I imagine most viewers will want to be alone with such an unsettling re-creation.
As if he didn't have enough problems, Michael Jackson's German logo has been sold to a stranger.
Wolfgang Rath, who owned the rights to the MJ logo in Germany, sold them at auction this week. The winning bid was a mere 85,000 euros, about $105,600. The name of the winner has not yet been revealed.
Jackson remains popular in Germany, with potential business ventures. Rath was surprised the rights to the logo went for so little, but he was even more shocked that neither Jackson nor any of his representatives tried to join the auction.
Rath also found it odd that Sony Music didn't try and buy the logo, since it is currently stamped on a box set of singles issued in Germany.
The new owner can now do what he pleases with it, so any kind of merchandise can now be issued in Germany under Jackson's name.