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Overall Rating
3.28

Awesome: 28.21%
Worth A Look: 19.23%
Average: 11.54%
Pretty Bad34.62%
Total Crap: 6.41%

5 reviews, 48 user ratings


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Ladder 49
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by EricDSnider

"Joaquin Phoenix ... fire ... rises like a phoenix ... there's a pun here..."
4 stars

Even though firefighters are interesting enough to make every little boy want to be one when he grows up, few films are made about them. I think it's because they're too noble. Cops and doctors -- the other notable life-saving professions that ARE the subject of many films -- are subject to corruption and grievous error, which makes for compelling drama. Firefighters -- well, when was the last time you heard about a dirty fireman getting kicked off the force for accepting bribes? The guys are such paragons of heroism that I suspect Hollywood feels like there's nothing they can do with them, no "angle" to them.

Watching "Ladder 49," the fine new drama directed by Jay Russell ("My Dog Skip," "Tuck Everlasting"), not only did it make me want to be a fireman all over again, but it also made me wonder why we don't see more of this in movies: everyday (i.e., non-fantasy) heroics perpetrated by likable, sympathetic characters who are human but not scoundrels. "Ladder 49" is a feel-good movie in the best way. It's exciting and funny and sad and uplifting. If it didn't lose its focus for a while in the middle, it would be truly outstanding.

It is told mostly in flashback. In the present, Baltimore firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) has saved a man from a burning building only to fall through a collapsed floor and lie injured and near death two stories below. As he waits for his comrades to rescue him, his life as a fireman passes before our eyes.

I have no way of knowing first-hand, of course, but the way the film paints life at the firehouse feels ccurate. It's like a frat house, but one where the residents become intensely serious and professional every time an alarm sounds. In the off-hours, they haze rookies and play endless pranks on each other. (That one of these pranks should involve setting a newspaper on fire and slipping it under the door of an occupied bathroom stall is especially believable. It's human nature to make jokes about our greatest obstacles and fears, because doing so makes the thing less scary. So of course firefighters would include fire in their camaraderie.)

Morrison's mentor is Chief Kennedy, played by John Travolta in a rare good performance. Kennedy is more or less married to his work, but Morrison marries Linda (Jacinda Barrett), a woman he and one of his firefighter buddies pick up in a supermarket, of all places. They have the sort of arguments you expect couples to have in movies like this -- your job is too dangerous; you're never home; etc. -- but in general they are madly in love.

Lewis Colick's screenplay spends most of its energy establishing the lives of Morrison and his firehouse crew, so much that it neglects what we assume is inevitable: At some point, something tragic has to happen. When will it strike? And who will be the victim?

I think I like where it all winds up. The more I consider it, the more it makes sense, the more it feels like an appropriate resolution for the film. Phoenix's performance is probably the most sympathetic and likable of his career. If the film loses itself midstream, forgetting where it's going and which paths it needs to take to get there, Phoenix saves it with equal parts heroism and humanity.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10960&reviewer=247
originally posted: 10/06/04 15:54:39
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
3/24/10 Firefighter005 loved the movie, but as a firefighter myself, id luv to go in a burning building w/o smoke 4 stars
1/26/09 a firefighter Not a single firefighter would go into that building...surround and drownd! 3 stars
1/09/09 Shaun Wallner Was'nt all that great! 2 stars
5/20/08 PAUL SHORTT MOVING, EMOTIONALY STIRRING AND COMPELLING 4 stars
4/22/08 Sarah Loved it! I've seen it 100 times and it's made me cry every time! 5 stars
12/05/06 William Goss Breezes through its rampant cliches, marred by the hokiest of endings. 3 stars
9/05/06 sam its good seeing americas heroes being onscreen instead of the usual teen drama 5 stars
9/02/06 nicole for all them people who think this movie is shit well you dont no what a good movie is! 5 stars
5/25/06 Piz Lot's of potential but very formulaic and predictable. A snoozer for the most part. 2 stars
1/10/06 Michael Flat as a pancake 1 stars
9/13/05 Taylor Fladgate Painful at times to watch. Cliche ridden. Who rated this "awesome"??? 2 stars
6/17/05 Leigh as a firey, would never go into a building burning without a buddy with hose and water. 1 stars
5/18/05 mwildema its like they tried to make this suck 1 stars
5/06/05 Dan The ultimate tribute to firefighters worldwide. 5 stars
4/18/05 DM Crappy, sappy, cliched and one-dimensional 2 stars
3/31/05 James I am a firefighter in idaho and it really hit me hard and touched home with our lives. 5 stars
3/18/05 Crandall101 I loved it! 5 stars
3/16/05 Lauren it was good 3 stars
3/10/05 oOParkerOo Boring 2 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung good acting and surprisingly a pretty good soryt 4 stars
2/05/05 Amy Bradshaw Everyone needs to see this film, a wonderful tribute to firefighters. 5 stars
1/27/05 Jeff Anderson A great, spirited, & heroic film. Travolta gives a heartfelt & flat-out great performance!! 5 stars
1/08/05 Aldo This really stinks 2 stars
1/03/05 Feliciano It's the same cliché off heroism, but its an incredible and very beautiful and educative on 4 stars
11/21/04 Meg best movie I've ever seen... left me crying at the end. 5 stars
11/10/04 alicia lacount i loved it 5 stars
11/08/04 Amanda i loved it 5 stars
10/29/04 infurno I thought ladder 49 was a awsome movie, all my friends at the fire house thought so to. 5 stars
10/28/04 Chuck E Z Worth watching, visually, emotionally, and for the entertainment value. 4 stars
10/26/04 jcjs fine 5 stars
10/25/04 Alex This is Joaquin's best movie 5 stars
10/24/04 M Poor man's Bacdraft. Have you seen that movie recently? 5 stars
10/24/04 MIKE from MNY GREAT MOVIE -- TRIVOLTA SHOULD GET OSCAR NOMINATION AS SUPPORTING ACTOR 4 stars
10/23/04 ODH This is a poor man's Backdraft, with little more than a cliche storyline 2 stars
10/18/04 D Kennedy I am a professional Fire FIghter and would give it a 9 out of 10 5 stars
10/18/04 Rob P S Heartrending 5 stars
10/15/04 Karl I thought this movie was terrific. I agree the plot was somewhat thin, but it didnt matter 5 stars
10/10/04 E. W> Sumner Better than your half-assed review says 4 stars
10/07/04 marge OKAY...listen..this movie is AwEsOmE*if anything we should give RESPECT & STOP complaining! 5 stars
10/07/04 Tiffany I thought this Movie was a great depiction of how firefighters really are. 2 thumbs up!!! 5 stars
10/07/04 ownerofdajoint good flick;especially the fire scenes.puts a firemen's job in a new light.well told 4 stars
10/04/04 Joe Smaltz Poor special effects, needed a technical director. medocre predictable plot. 2 stars
10/02/04 Kris backdraft II 1 stars
10/02/04 John Scarborough I thought this movie was rather good. It was wonderful but yet sad. I cried a bit. Must S 5 stars
10/02/04 Fuck Firemen Firefighters dont deserve any of this praise..they are a bunch of lazy self serving hacks 1 stars
10/02/04 Mark D Fulwiler thie movie doesn't honor firefighters---it deifies them--good fire effects though! 2 stars
10/01/04 Angelo Sudano Very interesting and realistic take on the life and career of a Firefighter. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  01-Oct-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Mar-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  06-Jan-2005




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