The purpose of a movie is to tell a story. In the case of United 93, written and directed by Paul Greengrass and to be released tomorrow, its story is one that the whole world lived on September 11th, 2001. The most blatant terrorist attack in recent history, it was an assault upon freedom itself; freedom that we all live in the good of here in the West, that freedom which all human beings crave in greater measure. United Airlines Flight 93 was the only one of four hijacked planes that did not reach its target, instead crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This was apparently because of an uprising against the terrorists by brave passengers and crew, averting further devastation in Washington DC, likely at the White House or United States Capitol. The story is reconstructed in real time using various sources that, together, give us a fair idea of what happened. It’s a dramatical investigation, a chronicle of the fight of a few for their freedom, and a reminder of the wider fight we all have for our freedom here in America and in the rest of the free world.

But some people don’t want to see it. One theatre in Manhattan has reportedly taken the trailer out of their reel after some audience members complained, and I’ve heard many people inform company of their revolt against it. Their rationale varies. Some think it’s too soon, that they will get upset. Others say it is disgusting that filmmakers will be gaining financially from the September 11th attacks. Others say it will be making fiction of the story, since we don’t know for sure what actually happened. Others say it is too political, intended to bolster Bush’s flagging polls. Others say it will dishonour the memory of those killed on United 93. Well, let’s have a look at that reasoning.

“It’s too soon. It would be too upsetting.”

This September 11th will mark the 5th anniversary of the tragic attacks, which are often compared in nature and magnitude to the events at Pearl Harbor. Movies depicting Pearl Harbor were released as early as 5 months after the attack, encouraged by those at the White House who believed that people needed to see what happened – it helped them to remember the reason for the war.

Too soon? Some people seem to have already forgotten what happened on 9/11. If anything, we could have done with seeing a Hollywood offering on this event earlier than now – an event which has had an impact on us all, and upon which a war is still being fought around the world. Not long ago I heard a copy of Howard Stern’s radio broadcast on the morning of September 11th, which I now have in my iTunes. He was one of the few New York broadcasters that stayed on the air that day, and many in the area turned to him for some sense of proportion of the events as he broadcasted from his Manhattan studio. Hearing the morning unfold live before them is chilling. Yet one thing stood out to me as I listened to Howard take random calls from New Yorkers: it didn’t take long for their responses to turn from shock to anger.

“Towel-head bastards” and “Take up arms” and “Bomb the hell out of them”. Righteous rage. Ethical fury. Legitimate moral anger. Where did that go? ‘It’s too soon’ for a movie about the events, but yet in such a short time we’ve lost our demand for justice? It’s high time we all went to see this movie and regained our passion for this war on terror. And for those who say they may get upset by watching United 93, I would suggest there is no response more appropriate than that, and no reaction more valuable.

“It’s disgusting that filmmakers will gain financially from this.”

Where did we get the idea that something is inherently meritorious only if it is done without getting paid? It is a good and noble thing to make a living. If making this movie at all is a good thing, then it is good that people got paid to make it. Otherwise, it would never have been made, and this story would not be told. When statues are built, they are built by people who get paid to build them. Are undertakers, morticians, gravediggers, gravestone manufacturers, embalmers and bereavement counsellors profiteering from the deaths of individuals and their families? I suppose you could say that they are. Yet we would never describe it that way, we would never object to them doing what they do, we would never try to claim that they are in immoral professions. We’ve got to stop demonising people for making money – it’s nonsensical.

“It is making fiction of this story, since we don’t know what actually happened.”

None survived United 93 to tell the story. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know what happened: we have a fairly good yet incomplete idea of what happened, from various sources. The 9/11 Commission Report, for example, contained detailed accounts and timelines for the events that morning, including what we know of the events on United 93. Jurors at the Zacarias Moussaoui trial last month heard transcripts of phonecalls made by 12 people on board which described the situation in the cabin. We also have black box data, surveys of the crash site, radar data and radio communications to ground control. Basically, it is accepted by almost everyone in authority that the story being told in the movie is a good reconstruction of those events.

Besides, it’s already been done. Discovery Channel recreated the events in a documentary called ‘The Flight That Fought Back’. ‘Flight 93’ was the name of a TV movie shown in January on A&E network which did the same. It’s time that this story was told on the big screen to a wide audience around the world.

“It’s too political – just intended to bolster Bush.”

This is a ridiculous argument. Anyone who actually believes this is drinking the wrong Kool-Aid. Interesting that the same left-liberals who are saying that this movie politicises 9/11 had no problem endorsing and loudly recommending that people see Michael Moore’s discreditable propaganda ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’. If any movie shouldn’t have been made about September 11th, it was that one. I don’t know what they’re smokin’ on this one, but Bush is the last person guaranteed to gain from Hollywood right now, and only an ignorant cretin could think otherwise. Perhaps Bush has some cronies running film studios on behalf of his administration? Worth looking into. Pour me another, wouldya?

“This movie will dishonour the memory of those who died on United 93.”

I couldn’t disagree more. On the contrary, the telling of their story in popular culture should contribute more to their honour than any statue, minute of silence or ceremony. We can erect a statue in their memory, pause for silence and mention their names in a ceremony, all without truly understanding what they did on United 93. History, for good or bad, is often made accessible, particularly to younger generations, by movies and television or not at all.

Have we dishonoured the memory of those who died during the events depicted by the movies Blackhawk Down or Titanic or, for that matter, Pearl Harbor? Can nobody tell a story on celluloid involving people who have died without the charge that they’re going to somehow automatically dishonour their memory by doing so? Popcorn and reverence are not mutually exclusive.

The more accurately and detailed an account is depicted, the fuller our understanding of that account – and you can’t get much more detailed than the careful portrait of film. After all, there’s a reason we’re remembering people like Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, Andrew Garcia, Jeremy Glick, Richard Guadagno, LeRoy Homer, CeeCee Lyles and Sandra Bradshaw. Those who are concerned to dignify their memory should be glad of the greater understanding that film can give to the events we wish to remember.

I should mention that the families of each and every one of the individuals who died on United 93 have pledged their support to this movie – some of them even attending the premiere last week in endorsement. They want you to see what their loved ones did for freedom.

I can see no better way to celebrate freedom, to honour the memory of the passengers and crew, and to regain our righteous anger than to see what happened on September 11th, 2001 in the cabin of the only hijacked plane not to reach its target. Libertarians like me aren’t in the habit of urging ‘everyone’ to do anything, but Islamic terrorists threaten everyone here personally. So I encourage all Westerners to go see United 93.

One more thing. The passengers and crew didn’t see a need to debate between themselves whether or not it would be ‘ethical’ to stage an uprising against the hijackers of their flight. They didn’t decide that it would be better to lie down and die without a fight. Pacifism was nowhere to be found. They had a threat, and they knew that there was only one possible effective way to deal with it: to attempt to kill the terrorists before the terrorists could kill them. Their peaceful existence had been threatened with terrorism, violence and aggression, to which their response was to orchestrate an attack. It was a pre-emptive strike, which ultimately meant the failure of the hijackers’ mission – to destroy a major target in Washington DC. It was national defence in action. It was a war on terror.

And what they started, it’s up to the rest of us to finish.

John Wright