Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) is the centerpiece of this poignant action drama. When he is trapped in a burning building, he reminisces about his life back to the time when he first joined the Baltimore Fire Department as a rookie. As he waits for his company, Ladder 49, to reach him, we see his flashbacks, which last most of the move: his first fire and the many people he had a part in rescuing, the first time he meets his wife Linda (Jacinda Barrett), the pressures that are put on his family due to the dangers of firefighting, and the joy of camaraderie with fellow firefighters as they play practical jokes and build close bonds. Mike Kennedy (John Travolta), fire chief and prankster, becomes Jack’s mentor and personally takes on the responsibility of Jack’s safety. Now Jack must depend on his fellow firefighters more than ever as he finds himself surrounded by smoke and fire with no clear way of escape.
First let me say that Ladder 49 is not a family film. It contains too much graphic language and some gruesome images of third degree burns. It should have been a family film if the producers had gone for a bit less “realism” in the language area. The language wasn’t gratuitous, just graphic in places. Taking a child to this film would be like taking your child to work where a lot of colorful language is commonly used.
Ladder 49 does an excellent job at putting your emotions in full swing. The cast is great and well trained for the roles they play. I really like John Travolta in a good guy role. Joahquin Phoenix brings together a complex Jack Morrision and really has you liking him and rooting for him. This tribute to firefighters is a film that will stand the test of time and should be viewed every September 11th in remembrance of those brave men that sacrificed themselves to save others.
The other aspect of this film that I thought was really well done is how they portrayed religion in the firefighters lives. It was real, is was a part of their lives and the film didn’t make fun or or criticize their faith but rather made it a real and deep part of who they were.
This film brought up emotions in me that most films don’t anymore. They get you involved with the characters and what they do, how they feel, and most of all why they do it, like most films today don’t do. I really enjoyed Ladder 49 and would think most adults would too.