'United 93' is overwhelming choice of critics for film of the year award

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The Independent Culture

Paul Greengrass's restrained and haunting film about the hijacked United Airlines flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001 was named film of the year by British critics last night.

The film beat its hotly tipped rival The Queen, Pedro Almodovar's Volver and Little Miss Sunshine to take the top film title at the annual London Film Critics' Circle Awards.

Greengrass, whose previous work includes Bloody Sunday and The Bourne Identity, was named best director, a category in which he has also been nominated for an Oscar. His movie was widely praised for its artfulness and sensitivity. Greengrass was also named British producer of the year with colleagues Lloyd Levin, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

Marianne Gray, the awards' chair, said the votes for United 93 were overwhelming. "It's an incredibly good film. It's beautifully acted by unknown people so you don't have any of the agenda that comes with stars. It's perfectly directed by Paul Greengrass and it's a ripping story. It's an accurate, never boring depiction of what it must really have been like that's more exciting than any number of epics."

However, The Queen, which depicts the events of the week after the death of Diana, Princesss of Wales, continued its run of recent success, including two Golden Globes, to triumph in four categories including British film of the year. Stephen Frears was named British director of the year, Peter Morgan took the screenwriting honour and Helen Mirren, who played the central role, was hailed as British actress of the year.

Marianne Gray said Mirren gave a "mesmerising" performance. "The Queen symbolises everything that is right with the British film industry at the moment and it is great to see that it can compete with the best that Hollywood can offer."

Although Meryl Streep took the actress of the year prize, Mirren's should not be seen as a consolation prize, Ms Gray said.

In other categories, there were wins for newcomers and industry veterans. Forrest Whitaker was named actor of the year for his role as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Toby Jones was named best British actor for a performance as the writer Truman Capote in the film Infamous, and Emily Blunt was declared the best British supporting actress for The Devil Wears Prada. Andrea Arnold was British newcomer of the year for Red Road, about a CCTV operator. The film also won the grand jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Michael Caine took the best supporting British actor award for The Prestige, a story about rival magicians.

The full list of winners

British producer of the year:

Paul Greengrass, Lloyd Levin, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for United 93

Screenwriter of the year:

Peter Morgan for The Queen

British newcomer of the year:

Andrea Arnold for Red Road

British actress in a supporting role:

Emily Blunt for The Devil Wears Prada

British actor in a supporting role:

Sir Michael Caine for The Prestige

British actor of the year:

Toby Jones for Infamous

British director:

Stephen Frears for The Queen

British actress:

Helen Mirren for The Queen

Foreign film:

Volver

Actress of the year:

Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada

Actor of the year:

Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland

Director of the year:

Paul Greengrass for United 93

Attenborough Award for British film of the year:

The Queen

Film of the year:

United 93

Dilys Powell Award:

Leslie Phillips

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