Monday, March 27, 2006

Flying 'United'

Saw the United 93 trailer over the weekend. Not entirely sure how I feel about it. I know how others do, as both my wife and my mother expressed the very opposite of interest: They were repulsed at the very idea of a 9/11 movie. (I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there were two coming within 6 months of each other.)

I was sort of excited by it. By the looks of it, United 93 seems to be a tale of heroes. And I’m a sucker for heroic stories. And I don’t mean superheroes, since few of them actually feature the defining characteristic of the hero’s story: choice.

One becomes a hero in the moment when they make the choice between safety and danger, when they choose to risk themselves for something else. So many so-called superheroes don’t make that choice. If Superman made that choice, it was a long time ago (and still sort of questionable since he is, for all intents and purposes, an invulnerable orphan with a secret identity, and therefore can’t actually risk anything). Batman is a psychopath, and one can’t trust the motives of the clinically insane. Wonder Woman, again, invulnerable, though her willingness to ostracize herself from her people and her home to do good works in man’s world probably tips the scales.

What interests me is the idea of trying to divine what made those people on board United Flight 93 decide not to go gently into that good night, and not give up without a fight. Is it the fact that they were able to face their mortality, in a very real way, and knowing they were already dead, had nothing to lose? Perhaps, though there were still people who stayed in their seats, rather than storm the cockpit and by so doing save thousands of lives. And that’s heroism: choosing to do that which you ordinarily wouldn’t for the sake of someone else.

(I know this'll get me in trouble in lots of quarters, but I don't think the firefighters and police officers who rushed into the smoking Towers should be considered "heroes." They were doing their jobs. Same with Secret Service officers who jump in front of bullets. It's right there in the job description and they are expected to do as such. No, their heroic moments came when they took the entrance exams.)

It is probably too soon for a 9/11 movie, but, still, I really do hope United 93 is good. Because, if nothing else, those people deserve a good movie.

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