in there and find him"
At one of the largest fires in Baltimore's history, fireman
Jack Morrison (Phoenix) is trapped in the collapsing building fighting for
his life. As Captain Mike Kennedy (Travolta) and the rest of the men from
his fire station try frantically to save him, Jack starts to remember his
life in the service, the lives he has saved and his wife Linda (Barrett).
Movies about the courageous men of the world's fire departments
are very few but can Ladder 49 show the work of these brave souls in the
After the terrible events of September 11th, the profile
of the fire service was the highest it has ever been. The men who lost there
lives were rightly proclaimed as heroes and suddenly everyone wanted to
know everything about the men and women who run into a burning building
when everyone else would be running out. Hollywood took notice and brought
us 'Ladder 49' but the problem is that they also brought far too much cheese
to go with it.
The movie starts well, with an interesting premise and a likeable
cast of characters. The film starts with riveting action sequence that sees
Jack trapped inside the burning building. Then the filmmakers utilise the
flashback sequence to show the ten years that Jack has been in the fire
service. We see his probationary period, his first fire, meeting his future
wife Linda, the times that tragedy hit the firehouse and the general ups
and downs of the job. This is all promising stuff and the characters are
strong enough to keep you engaged but there is something all too Hollywood
about it all for the movie to be realistic.
One of the major problems is the soundtrack. The music is
a mixture of corny rock and roll songs and an overly military-style score
that just makes the whole film feel like its coated with a think layer of
cheese. Another problem is the dialogue. The banter between the firemen
is good but when it comes to the more dramatic elements of the script, the
dialogue is sadly lacking and spirals into cliché. When you have Jack wife
Linda saying lines like 'You promised me that it wouldn't be dangerous',
when she is talking about his job, you know that the script is lacking any
sort of reality.
The performances are fine but you wouldn't be amiss in thinking
that John Travolta and Joaquin Phoenix can do a lot better than this. The
two big name stars seem to be on autopilot throughout, never quite giving
their all to the production. The supporting cast fair a lot better however,
with Robert Patrick as Lenny Richter and the beautiful Jacinda Barrett as
Linda, getting the much better roles.
'Ladder 49' is a good premise that suffers from the Hollywood
treatment. While the fire set pieces are good and some of the banter between
the characters is how you'd expect it to be in a firehouse, the film is
far too overly cheesy to make it truly memoriable. This is blatantly apparent
in the overly sentimental finale that will have you feeling queasy. All
of this combines to produce a very average movie that certainly won't spark
Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital
5.1, the movie is presented well, taking you into the heart of the fire.
Audio Commentary by director Jay Russell and editor Bud
The man at the helm and his editor talk about trying to realistically
portray the lives of fire-fighters. The pair talks about casting and the
training the actors went through to prepare for the movie. They also discuss
the Baltimore location and the fact that they used real fire throughout,
to increase the realism. This is an informative and chatty commentary
that complements the movie well.
The Making of 'Ladder 49' (21.18 mins)
Director Jay Russell, executive producer Armyan Bernstein, producer Casey
Silver, writer Lewis Colick and stars John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix,
Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, Balthazar Getty, Kevin
Chapman and Tim Guinee take you behind the scenes of 'Ladder 49'. Split
into three parts entitled 'On location', 'Fire Academy: Training the Actors'
and 'Anatomy of a Scene: The Warehouse', the featurettes take you on location
in Baltimore, reveal insights into the casting and the actors involved,
show you the two weeks of training the cast and crew had to go through
to prepare for the film and how the massive warehouse fire was brought
to the silver screen.
Everyday Heroes (13.42 mins)
John Travolta introduces a short featurette that highlights the real life
Baltimore fighters that inspired the film and their stories of bravery,
family, medals and practical jokes that come with been a fire-fighter.
Deleted Scenes (14.10 mins)
Entitled 'Lunchroom Conversations', 'Jack and Linda's first date', 'Captain
Tony arrives', 'Ray's subplot' and '9-11', these deleted or extended scenes
are good but without a commentary track or introduction you don't know
why they were cut.
"Shine your light" music video performed by Robbie Robertson
Jacinda Barrett stars in the music video that was used to promote the
release of 'Ladder 49'.
Previews of 'The Last Shot', 'Shall we Dance?' and 'National Treasure'
Touchstone has done a good job with the DVD presentation
of 'Ladder 49'. An informative and insightful commentary is backed up
with some interesting featurettes and other bonus material. Fans of the
film will be pleased with this disc.
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