LADDER 49 (DVD Review)

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DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 115 minutes, The Making of Ladder 49, Everyday Heroes featurette, deleted scenes, Robbie Coltrane music video, and audio commentary


RELEASE DATE: 3-8-2005

ANALYSIS: LADDER 49 is a frustrating experience. The movie is like a house on fire when they show the firefighters in action and how they deal with the death of one of their own. Where LADDER 49 fails is basically the rest of the movie where they focus too much on badly written and/or badly paced melodrama of what goes on in the life of firefighters when they aren't fighting fires. I have seen good drama about firefighters (namely the TV series- RESCUE ME starring Dennis Leary). The previews made this movie look good, but basically I came away very disappointed.

LADDER 49 starts with firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) becoming trapped inside a burning building and his fellow firefighters, commanded by Jack's mentor (John Travolta), try to rescue him. The movie flashbacks to Jack's life as a firefighter and his bonding with his fellow firefighters (and family life with his wife). Many people have said LADDER 49 is one of the accurate looks at the lives of firefighters.  The movie has well-directed firefighting scenes with some great actors, but I wonder where they could have taken it if LADDER 49 was better written and with better pacing.

VIDEO/AUDIO: LADDER 49 is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. Colors are vivid and blacks are good. Image detail really pops out while a little artifacting is seen in the smoke.

Audio has two options: English 5.1 Dolby Digital or a French 5.1 DD. French and Spanish subtitles are available. Dialogue is crystal clear. Many of the sound effects really come across and even the music does (when they go into music montage mode).


THE MAKING OF LADDER 49 is composed of three featurettes (On Location, Fire Academy: Training The Actors, Anatomy of a Scene: The Warehouse Fire) that you can play each one alone or all together through a Play All option. You learn why they chose Baltimore to shoot the movie in (because they could start fires), see the actors go through two weeks of training at the Fire Academy, and go behind-the-scenes of the warehouse fire from the hydraulics in the interior set to sound effects. Interviews with cast and crew are featured. THE MAKING OF LADDER 49 is OK and provides some neat info about the movie including the use of real fire. EVERYDAY HEROES is about the real life stories of firefighters and their families in Baltimore, Maryland. Basically, it is more interesting than some of the drama moments of the movie. Five deleted scenes (about 14 minutes in total are included with only two of them of any interest at all (Captain Tony Arrives, 9-11). Also included among the bonus features is a music video for "Shine Your Light" performed by Robbie Robertson and previews for HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, NATIONAL TREASURE, and HOME IMPROVEMENT- SEASON TWO.

The audio commentary for the movie is with director Jay Russell and editor Bud Smith. It is a good track that goes into the details of the problems with real fire (and how digital fire doesn't work) along with other technical details about the production of LADDER 49 including how prep is good for a movie.

FINAL ANALYSIS: LADDER 49 will satisfy some people, but rent the DVD before buying it because the melodrama is the weak part of this movie.

this DVD Review is (c)3-9-2005 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content at http://www.livejournal.com/enterlinemedia