New York (Reuters): A film about the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania has raised questions about whether Americans are ready for Hollywood's take on the September. 11 attacks, but some relatives of those who died support ''United 93.'' The film, which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival next week, recreates the flight in actual time, from takeoff to the hijacking to the crash. It is an intense re-enactment and even the trailer prompted one New York City theater to pull the advertisement because of negative reactions from customers.
But Peggy Beamer, whose son Todd Beamer died on United flight 93, said that while she found the movie difficult to watch, it was an important story to tell. ''I think the timing is very good,'' she said yesterday at a New York press event for the Universal Pictures film. ''If it had been one or two years after September 11, it would have been much too difficult.'' Gordon Felt, who lost his brother Edward, said the movie studio had promised to donate 10 per cent of box office takings from the opening weekend to a fund to create a memorial for those who died on that flight. ''I don't think they're profiteering on our story,'' he said, adding that the business of movie companies was to make money.
The producers spent hours talking to the families to produce research the actors used to improvise scenes on the plane during the hijack. Director Paul Greengrass created a mock-up of the plane and filmed the actors improvising what they imagined might have happened, guided by phone conversations that many passengers made and by transcripts of flight recorders. The film starts with a voice in Arabic reading from the Koran and the first few minutes show the hijackers praying in a hotel room before they go to the airport. The tension builds slowly, with long, drawn-out scenes of mundane preparations for the flight - passengers calling home, flight attendants chatting, fuel being loaded on the plane.
The story of United 93 is punctuated by the narrative of what is happening at air traffic control centers tracking United 93 and the other hijacked planes -- two of which crashed into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon. In the final scene the passengers try to overcome the hijackers and the plane hurtles downwards.
''To me the job of this film is to ... create a responsible, mature, reasonable narrative of those events to see what it tells us about where we are today,'' said Greengrass, director of the action movie ''The Bourne Supremacy'' and ''Bloody Sunday,'' about one of the most controversial events in Northern Ireland's troubles. ''Hollywood has many missions. Of course it has a mission to entertain,'' he said. ''But it also has a mission ... to make films about the way the world is, to challenge us.'' Greengrass said the film was made for under $20 million. ''It was very, very important that it be made on a small scale without movie stars, where all of us that made it were doing it for love and not money,'' he said.
David Beamer, father of Todd Beamer, said he hoped the film would make a profit as an encouragement to others to make good films. ''I'm okay with a good project making money,'' he said. Beamer said he had first seen the movie recently with a group of about 70 victims' relatives and that they all had a positive reaction to it. Actor Christian Clemenson, who plays one of the passengers, said making the film was a unique experience. ''We all had some qualms that this could be exploitative, but very early on I was relieved of that feeling,'' he said. Actor Cheyenne Jackson, who played another passenger, said he was guided by the families: ''They don't think it's too soon, some think it's not soon enough.''