Jeffrey Nordling, Ty Olsson, Kendall Cross, Brennan Elliott. September 11, 2001 changed America forever. But if anything typlified the character of the American spirit better than the courageous actions of 40 passengers on United Airlines' Flight# 93 on that fateful day, I'm sure I don't know what it is. This 2006 made-for-TV presentation was the most watched in A&E history. 2006/color/90 min/NR.
Three months before the much-publicized theatrical release of United 93
, the same true-life tragedy was faithfully dramatized in Flight 93
, an equally praiseworthy TV movie that was originally broadcast on the A&E network on January 30, 2006. The fourth plane to be hijacked on September 11th, 2001 and the only plane that didn't reach its intended terrorist target is the riveting subject of this film, which unfolds in real-time (similar but not identical to United 93
), beginning with the terrorists' preparations and boarding of the ill-fated flight. We then follow the notorious events as they unfold, and from that moment on, it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen. The intense drama focuses on the passengers who ultimately thwarted the terrorists they include Tom Burnett (Jeffrey Nordling), Todd Beamer (Brennan Elliot), and Mark Bingham (Ty Olsson) but as their counter-attack plans are being made, the action also reveals the chaotic nature of the ground response, from the White House bunker (where Vice President Cheney was moved for security) to Offices of the Federal Aviation Agency, Verizon headquarters (where in-flight calls were monitored), and United Airlines flight control, where pilots and terrorists alike could be heard throughout the terrible ordeal of the hijacking.
To his credit, director Peter Markle steers clear from any sense of exploitation (it helps that there was a five-year gap between the 9/11 tragedy and this respectable film); furthermore, both Markle and screenwriter Nevin Schreiner avoid the pitfalls of melodrama by keeping the action rooted in the facts as we know them. Speculation is necessary for some of the dramatic details, but Flight 93 benefits from a well-chosen cast of unknowns, which enhances our belief in them as ordinary citizens under extraordinary circumstances. As you might expect, several scenes are inherently unforgettable (up to and including the now heroic phrase "Let's roll!" as the counter-attack begins), and the authentically played emotions are further intensified by realistic special effects by Gary Gutierrez, who performed similarly laudable duties on The Right Stuff 23 years earlier, at the start of his visual effects career. Produced with the cooperation of surviving family members of those who perished on Flight 93, this well-made TV film handles difficult material with grace under pressure, and that alone serves as an admirable tribute to those brave passengers who gave their lives so that others could be saved. --Jeff Shannon