By: The Dweeb
Ladder 49 is a well crafted film depicting the life of every day hero firefighters. A touching action drama, director Jay Russell has created a great tribute to these men and women who risk their lives daily for us and don’t ever receive the attention that they should. In this day and age, the film gains more importance as it shows us their personal sacrifices, something we have always taken for granted that they are there.
Not since Backdraft has there been a good firefighter drama, Ladder 49 fits that bill nicely. Set in Baltimore, the films actually starts at the end of the story arc and bounces around in the timeline at various points in Firefighter Jack Morrison’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life. The action scenes are intense, as the cinematography is shot almost like a documentary as we sit right behind the firefighters as they work the fire. I think my eyebrows were singed by the time it was over. Director Jay Russell wanted to put us right in the thick of it, I’d say that was right on target as I was ready to stop drop and roll myself a few times.
In between the action sequences, the film depicts the personal relationships between the men of the firehouse. They are a tight knit group, and there’s much drinking and practical joking involved. There are many humorous moments in the film that helps to break some of the serious undertones that a job like this carries. My favorite is the new rookie ‘confession’ gag that the station pulls on the new guy.
By the end of the film you will develop a strong emotional attachment to these characters, as they go through their ups and downs. Joaquin’s performance was pretty good as well almost everyone in the cast, even John Travolta’s Captain Mike Kennedy. Travolta’s performances as of late have been severely lacking in any credibility in my opinion, so this is a nice turnaround. When I started to watch I was expecting more of the same from him, which to some degree there is but at least he isn’t mugging to the camera. Is it me or does he look weird in certain shots, like his makeup is visible or something. His face is slowly starting to resemble a square as it fills out with age. Whatever, as long as he shows up for work right?
As expected with a film such as this, the sound and picture are pretty good. Boasting a THX certified soundtrack, the fires will be burning all around you and the sirens wailing. The picture itself is clear, of course except when you are in the midst of firefighting things get dark in a hurry. Also included are a nice selection of extras to accompany the film, containing the usual promotional material, deleted scenes, music video and making of documentary. There is an interesting short featurette on the actors going to firefighting school and a no DVD would be complete with a tribute to the real firefighters. I’m happy to say I was quite impressed, it is an enjoyable film and a decent package.