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  • Date :
  • 10/3/2004

'Ladder 49' Burns with Heated Action

If you portray them as larger-than-life heroes who never hesitate to risk their lives to help others, you run the risk of an unrealistic film with unrealistic rescues.

If you show firefighters as real human beings -- some good, some bad -- the audience might stay away from the theaters, not wanting to see the heroes of 9/11 portrayed in a bad light.

"Ladder 49" errs on the side of hero worship, but it does not portray the men as supermen who can survive any blaze, no matter how hot.

The basic storyline of "Ladder 49" has been written a thousand times before. Rookie firefighter (Irish Catholic, of course) gets a good-natured hazing as he is brought into the brotherhood. He hangs out at the bars with his buddies, meets a girl, gets married and has kids who are baptized in the church. The wife is scared of the risks he takes in fighting fires, but bravely backs him all the way.

What set "Ladder 49" apart are the firefighting scenes? Director Jay Russell has a talent for helping you feel like you are in the firefighter's shoes, through all the disorientation, frantic fear and smoke-choking flames.

I actually learned a few things about how every firefighter has a very specific job on the team and how clockwork timing is essential to putting out a blaze and saving the lives of both the victims and fellow firefighters.

Once you set aside the corniness of the firehouse hijinks and the overly familiar family story, the actors are quite good together. They each have created very specific characters that the audience can connect to and root for.Joaquin Phoenix as the green rookie turned seasoned firefighter has an understated, "aw shucks" quality that belies his future as a hero.

John Travolta's movie star looks and familiarity to the audience gives him some big hurdles to overcome as the leader of the ladder company. There are times when his acting seems over the top, but by the end, you believe him every step of the way. As a family drama, "Ladder 49" is strictly by the book. But as a peek into what a firefighter must endure every time he or she enters a burning building, "Ladder 49" is frighteningly real.

Taken From: http://www.thehometownchannel.com/entertainment/3775785/detail.html

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