United 93 2-Disc Limited Edition—Universal

Video: 3
Audio: 3
Extras: 4

This isn’t so much a DVD as a shelf-sized memorial to the passengers who fought “the first battle in the war on terror.” The film itself, deftly and nonpolitically directed by Paul Greengrass, captures the chaotic events of that morning on the ground and in the air. The movie’s final act is set exclusively on the doomed airliner, and it’s then that the tension and anguish reach their apex, aided by a minimalist, throbbing score.

For all of the movie’s poignancy, it pales compared to the heartbreaking documentary “United 93—The Families and the Film,” in which several of the actors visit the families of the Flight 93 victims they portrayed. Unanimously, the family members were thrilled to meet the actors, as though they were welcoming back their loved ones. The same relatives give their reviews following a screening of the movie; as one elderly mother put it, the movie “brought peace.”

Disc one also contains an insightful commentary by Greengrass and “Memorial Pages”—text biographies of each of the flight’s passengers and crew. It’s an appropriate touch. Disc two contains a documentary about the events of that fateful morning, featuring many of the military and civilian decision makers. Remarkably, we’re told, the Air Force had just four fighter jets on combat readiness for the eastern half of the United States.

The picture and sound are beside the point for a title like this. Nonetheless, the film was shot with an intentionally grainy stock, and the 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation is fine. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track effectively delivers ambient sounds and voices, along with the haunting score. Populated by real-life participants and unfamiliar actors, this gritty telling of a heroic story is as lifelike as film gets, and this DVD serves as a historical chronicle of that tragic day.

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