This is obviously a delicate subject, and people will have varying opinions on whether or not this actually happened. Putting all conspiracy theories aside, I'll never forget what this did to me the first time I saw it.
I saw this in a Staten Island movie theater in the spring of 2006. Have you ever been in a Staten Island movie theatre? On a Friday night? Back when people talked on the phone instead of texting? It was like Romper Room. I got into so may arguments with people over the years to the point where I just stopped going. I'd take the ferry into the city to avoid having to deal with some fuckhead in a FILA jumpsuit providing commentary while taking a conference call every ten minutes.
This film began to no previews and a sold-out audience. I was with my girlfriend at the time, anxiety through-the-roof as the crowd loudly trickled in. You know when you start to question why someone will do something before they do it, solely based on your own personal judgements? That's what happened with me: "How could you talk on your phone during a movie about 9/11?! The fuck is wrong with YOU?!" (I'm a maniac.)
The lights went down, and a series of loud shushes happened. No one made a peep for the next 110 minutes. I'd forgotten I was in New York City.
The last ten minutes of this film is a classic example of, "I know what's going to happen but I'm convinced something different will happen anyway." The momentum built up here -- how much we're pulling for these people to somehow come out of this -- oh my God. Using unknown actors (Cheyenne Jackson wasn't TV-famous yet, Broadway peeps), getting barely any backstory on anyone, we're still screaming on the inside as they gear up to fight back and attempt to take control of the plane. Even now, as I rewatched this in a coffee shop, having watched it dozens of times, I still held my breath while choking back tears, hoping for some other outcome.
As the screen abruptly went to black on that Friday night on Staten Island, with John Powell's snare-drumming, heart-pounding score fading out, all you heard were scattered sniffles and couples consoling each other. I'd never been so exhausted, so knocked-around by a film like I did that night.
If you can get your hands on a DVD of this film, listen to director Paul Greengrass' commentary on how he coached his actors through this scene. It's fascinating.