TV films of the week

TV films of the week 15

ITV1, Friday September 13, 11.05pm

When making a film about real life events in which people have actually died, there is a fine line to be straddled between producing socially responsible art and churning out commercial snuff movies. Creatively, it is an exceedingly heavy burden to bear. So when Paul Greengrass decided to write, co-produce and direct an account of United Airlines Flight 93 – one of the planes hijacked on September 11, 2001 – less than five years after that fateful day, some might have thought he risked scuppering a burgeoning Hollywood career.

He wasn’t, of course. Greengrass had already made his mark telling one of the most shameful episodes in Northern Ireland’s Troubles in Bloody Sunday, and he employs the same documentary aesthetic in United 93. Using a cast of unknown actors, supplemented by some of those who participated in the actual events depicted, is a masterstroke, adding to the unnerving sense of realism and never detracting from the tragedy that unfolds before our eyes.

The result is one of the most visceral films you will ever see. As the focus progresses to the claustrophobic confines of the plane’s interior, it is hard not live every moment of fear, of despair, of defiance that the passengers may well have felt on that day. Your adrenaline will surge, your pulse will quicken and your stomach will most definitely knot. But by its end, you will find a renewed appreciation for the precious value of life. This is filmmaking of the highest order.


The Wrestler
Film4, Friday September 13, 11:25pm

It seems ironic that the role that revived Mickey Rourke’s acting career was one in which he portrayed a once-great performer whose stardust has long since blown away in the winds. Nevertheless, his performance as faded wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, along with that of co-star Marissa Tomei, was well worthy of the Oscar nomination they received. Director Darren Aronofsky’s drama is as emotional as they come, and just like United 93, the conclusion is a gut-wrenching tour de force.

I Am Legend, ITV1
Saturday September 14, 10:15pm

As the lead in an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s post-apocalyptic horror novel of the same name, Will Smith wasn’t an obvious choice. After all, this is the man most recognise as the ultra cockey Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Bad Boys cop or ‘Big Willie Style’ rapper. So it is a surprise that, in a film in which Smith spends a good deal of time on his own, growing ever more mentally unhinged, he is never any less than absolutely convincing and, at times, incredibly moving.

BBC2, Sunday September 15, 10:45pm

Harking back to the more cerebral science fiction films of the Seventies and early Eighties, Duncan Jones’ directorial debut is a must watch for those who want a little more than gods, monsters and giant robots leaping around smashing things. Eschewing computer generated effects and instead leading with a fantastic performance by Sam Rockwell (aided by a Kevin Spacey-voiced computerised assistant), this is a fantastic low-key thriller whose ideas of existence, memory and corporate skullduggery make it an absolute must-watch.