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Ladder 49

A movie directed by Jay Russell

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Ladder 49 - 2004

  • Sep 15, 2006
Pros: Phoenix, Travolta

Cons: none

The Bottom Line: “Shine your light down on me
Lift me up so I can see
Shine your light when you're gone
Give me the strength to carry on”
Robbie Robertson

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

As predictable as it is, Ladder 49 is still a remarkable movie. The beginning of the movie is centered around a large fire, which continues until the end of the movie. The intervening portion is the background of the people fighting that fire and how they became what they were.

The main characters are Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the part of rookie firefighter, Jack Morrison, and John Travolta, his captain, Mike Kennedy. We follow Morrison from the first time he steps inside the doors of his station house through all the work and play that becomes part of the men and women that devote the larger portion of their lives, saving ours.

Firefighting is a dirty job. They are overworked and underpaid. It is one of the few professions that I don’t mind seeing the guys and gals sitting on their butts, playing cards and watching TV, passing the time. For as long as I see them lounging outside their station house kibitzing or whatever, I know they aren’t out risking their lives.

Quite a few characters in this movie spent a good deal of time training with actual firemen, to make this seem more authentic. This becomes evident in their actions during the actual fire, which was a real one, even though it was set on purpose for this filming. Their sweat is real sweat. As Travolta comments later on the DVD, it was scorching being that close to the fire in all that equipment.

The interaction between the characters was jovial and believable. You felt friendships and bonds had evolved, much like they must in a real setting. These people depend on each other to get them out safely at the end of their work day. Even more evident is the feeling of loss and pain when things don’t go the way they should.

Ladder 49 gives us a chance to see the effects of this hazardous profession on the people that touch the firefighters lives on a daily basis. From family to comrades, each person is affected in different ways. Joaquin’s wife is terrified of his chosen profession, although she knew he was a fireman when they met and eventually married. Fellow workers share the love and pain of daily life.

The movie gives us the opportunity to view these people both inside and outside their work place. We join in the good times and the bad; the questions that have no answers and the serenity of holding someone you love in the quiet moments.

As far as portrayal, Phoenix was remarkable in his part. He spent so much time living and training with the firemen before filming that they dubbed him an honorary member. Dropping his latest roles as tough guy, Travolta gave us a warmer character with depth and feeling. I highly enjoyed his part in the movie.

As a post 9/11 movie, I thought this one gave us a side of the firefighters that was a welcome and eye opening involvement. Some of the rescue work is extremely intense. The ending had me quietly saying “No, not fair”. You knew it was coming but, still, you wished it away.

It won one award, nominated for five others. Run time 115 minutes. Directed by Jay Russell, written by Lewis Colick. Extras on the DVD include:
Commentary by director Jay Russell and editor Bud Smith
Deleted Scenes
"Everyday Heroes" featuring real stories from real firefighters
"The making of Ladder 49" featurette
"Shine your Light" music video by Robbie Robertson
Enhanced Home Theater Mix

Well worth the watch.



Viewing Format: DVD

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More Ladder 49 reviews
review by . August 29, 2006
Ladder 49 was not the type of film I expected-- I was hoping for a good, fast-paced action flick, which I got for about the first 5 minutes. The remainder of the 30 minutes that I watched was flashback to the rookie firefighter's first days at the station.     Someone looking for drama and a story about the growth of a firefighter would probably like this movie. However, those looking for action should probably look elsewhere.
review by . May 09, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Maybe am a little Bias, but my family descends from a long line within the fireservice: Great Grandfather, grandfather, dad, mom, brother and myself. Maybe that is why ladder 49  struck such a chord inside me.    Ladder 49 opens with Jaquin Pheonix racing into a burning warehouse with word that somewhere within the inferno are two possible survivors. When the situation shifts for the worst, Pheonix's character is haunted by the memories of a loving family outside the …
review by . March 10, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
LADDER 49 is a story searching for a script. Though filled (literally almost every frame) with some of the best pyrotechnics material that has been filmed, the story is an obvious one that seems it wants to pay tribute to the firemen who protect us - a very worthy intent.    The problem with this film is the flatness of the characters. We know no more about the characters in the story at the end of the film than we do at the beginning, and the beginning is the end of this flimsy …
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About this movie


In paying simple tribute to firefighters,Ladder 49gets to the heart of those who risk their lives for a living. Director Jay Russell brought similar sincerity to his memorable family favoriteMy Dog Skip, and despite the banalities of an ultra-conventional screenplay by Lewis Colick,Ladder 49generates so much goodwill toward its Baltimore firemen that you may find yourself unexpectedly overcome with emotional appreciation for guys like Jack (Joaquin Phoenix), a firefighter whose career, courtship, marriage, and fatherhood are viewed in flashback as he struggles to survive in the present-day framing scenes, cut off from his fellow firemen in the fiery guts of a collapsing 20-floor building. There are no surprises in the familiar scenes of male bonding, dangerous rescues, injury and death, and the supportive concern of Jack's wife (Jacinda Barrett), but by focusing on the simple integrity of Jack's personal and professional commitment, the movie gives Phoenix a showcase for unselfish virtue, while John Travolta provides dignified support as Jack's mentor and devoted firehouse captain.Ladder 49is routine in most respects, but it's a much-deserved valentine to working-class heroes.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Jay Russell
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: October 1, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Lewis Colick
DVD Release Date: March 08, 2005
Runtime: 1hr 54min
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Touchstone Pictures
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