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United 93

The Contenders

Release: April 28

Distributor: Universal

Oscar Alum: Chris Munro (sound, “Black Hawk Down”)

Hollywood was decidedly on edge in the weeks leading up to the spring release of British filmmaker Paul Greengrass’ “United 93.”

The nearly real-time film about the one hijacked plane on Sept. 11 that was diverted from its intended target by the brave passengers onboard was made with the support of the passengers’ families, but would it enlighten and commemorate, or offend? Was it made too soon?

The verdict ultimately was that an undeniably gripping, emotionally shattering and respectful dramatic memorial had been achieved, although even admiring critics noted the hardship of enduring such a vivid re-creation of traumatic events.

The Academy Awards are certainly no stranger to the horrors of history — from “All Quiet on the Western Front” through “Schindler’s List” — even sometimes addressing realities as they were still affecting the citizenry, as 1946 picture winner “The Best Years of Our Lives” famously did regarding the concerns of returning soldiers from World War II.

The question is whether supportive Academy members are willing to see the film as appropriately worthy of awards competition, or whether they’re willing to see it at all. Some have said that their feelings are still too raw to view a 9/11 film.

Individual perfs in a film like “United 93” — so tied to a communal, multiple-location narrative — will be too hard to separate from the whole, so acting noms are unlikely. That said, Greengrass’ firm cross-cutting depicting the gathering force of obliviousness, fear, chaos and ultimately heroic resolve is what great directing is all about, and his screenplay is a marvel of docudrama distillation.

Kudo consideration could also be reserved for John Powell’s score, and the powerfully persuasive editing of Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse.

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