Ladder 49 Review

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Having become trapped in a burning building, dedicated fire fighter Jack (Phoenix) contemplates the family and friends he'll leave behind, while his captain (Travolta) sends a team in to search for him.


The post-9/11 American beatification of the nation's firefighters reaches a sub-greetings card level of obsequious schmaltz with this very disappointing movie, which 'celebrates' the bravery of its subjects with a dearth of imagination or genuine feeling. It opens reasonably well, with an action sequence that traps Jack in a towering inferno, but then reverts to flashback to chronicle his fire-fighting career in a blaze of portentous inconsequence.

There's no question that firefighters do an admirable job, but the mere passage of becoming one does not an interesting narrative make. The events remembered by Jack as he lies gasping could be explained in 30 seconds - Jack gets job, Jack meets girl, Jack marries girl, Jack likes beer. This is a film entirely composed of prologue, hurling all its energy into convincing its audience that Jack is definitely a fireman and has done all the things you might expect a fireman to do.

Come the eventual credit crawl, the audience is left with no more insight into the leading man than was evident in the initial frames. The best that can be said is that Russell's technique is competent, the performances are decent and Travolta keeps his hamming to a minimum.

What was clearly meant to be a heartfelt tribute comes across as humourless profiteering. Dull.