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Friday, April 14, 2006

Flight 93 Cheapens 9/11

A little over a week ago I said that I feared that the release of 911 tapes from the World Trade Center in the moments following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, would lead to the inevitable sensationalizing of these events. I needn’t have worried. Hollywood was already on the case.

Flight 93 offers a depiction of what it was like on the fourth plane hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists on that day. Passengers had learned of the tragic events going on in our country, recognized that they were meant to be part of yet another suicide attack by their hijackers, and attempted to take control of the plane. While saving countless lives with their bravery, the passengers all lost their lives as they brought the plane crashing down in a field western Pennsylvania.

Phone calls to loved ones from passengers explaining what they were about to do no doubt informs the film, as does the flight recorder. Yet, there’s simply no way that Stone hasn’t taken a literary license with much of the film. We just don’t have enough facts to create a feature-length film on the events of that flight. It can also very safely be assumed that Stone has taken every measure to heighten the emotions and drama of a story with an ending everyone knows.

I’ve never been shy about my desire to make money through this site. I think of myself as a writer, and while I love writing, I doubt I would pursue it if there was no hope of financial reward. I have no problem with others doing the same. Hollywood is in the business of making films. This film will no doubt make millions. Even those of us who question whether or not producer’s crossed a line by making it will likely see it sooner or later.

The film's producers will no doubt argue that this is part of history, a story that must be told. They knows they’ll be criticized for making this film, and that the criticism will generate interest, and interest will mean more ticket sales, all of which puts more money in their pockets.

Instinctively most will view the making of this film as wrong. I share that opinion, but it took a while to come up with a satisfactory reason as to why. After all, war movies are a staple of our culture, and “not enough time having gone by” didn’t satisfy me either.

Then I think I figured out why this just won’t sit well with many. There are ways to tell this story without sensationalizing it. From what commercials have already revealed, the film depicts the final moments of being on that plane, and that’s where any thought of “telling the story” goes out the window.

There are war veterans who can tell us the horrors of war. Similarly, films that depict other “real” forms of suffering have some grounding in captured experience — cancer victims sharing their stories, for example, or Holocaust survivors, POWs, and HIV patients, just to name a few. The list could go on and on.

We’ve seen enough of war via news (and other) coverage that others can at least try to extrapolate what it’s like in fictional tales. But Stone is, by necessity, mix reality with way too much story telling.

No one survived Flight 93. No one knows the terror or courage of the final moments of those passengers’ lives. Even if producers felt the need to tell this story, dramatizing these historic events is just wrong.

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