Ladder 49

Cover and Menu: 5/10

The cover is quite boring, but classic for this time of flick. Fair enough. The menus are just as uninteresting, but functional. As you can tell, I wasn’t impressed with the packaging, let’s hope the movie is more lively!

Extras: 8/10

  • Everyday Heroes: Real Stories From Real Firefighters – Real people talking about their legacy and family history of firefighting makes up this good sized extra. It’s not too skimpy, but I would like it to be longer with more people’s stories, but that’s just me being greedy. I appreciate that the movie makers on this project are so involved in telling a story of real life heroes, hardworking people, and the go so far as to show us some of the folks who are not stunt people, not actors, not Hollywood created firefighters, but the real deal.
  • The Making Of Ladder 49 – You get a closer look at the danger and the magnitude of what it was like to make a movie that requires real fires, real burning buildings, and putting the actors into it all. They don’t mess around with CGI in this movie, it’s all real and this short extra shows some of the effort it takes to bring it all together.
  • Shine Your Light Music Video – Video, not very interesting.
  • Audio Commentary With Director Jay Russell & Editor Bud Smith – A really good commentary that takes you one step closer to just how important it was for the crew of this movie to tell a story about real people, but with that Hollywood touch. They are all enthusiastic and at the end Jay Russell even says he would like to do a 4 hour version of a commentary but it would be too boring.  I like a film maker who is that passionate about a project, it shows on the screen and even if the movie isn’t a knock out 10/10, it’s got a lot of heart and that goes a long way in my book.

The Movie: 8/10:
Let’s get one thing straight right now, this is a sentimental, sappy, often melodramatic story. There comes a time when you have to separate the films from the movies, and this is a movie. It’s meant to stir your emotions, catch your attention, keep you interested and tell a very linear story. No room for artsy fartsy film stuff here. It keeps in line with all that stuff Hollywood loves so much like heart tugging close ups, endearing characters, heroism, bravery, and gut wrenching action. There is nothing wrong with a well packaged movie churned out by the movie companies when it’s done right, and I personally feel that this time, they got it right. That said, on with the review.

I put on my General Public hat and sat down to watch well produced, well packaged flick that was going to be sure to coax at least one or two tears out of my female eyes. I got all that and more. I’m a huge Joaquin Phoenix fan, so that injected everything I needed to face what might be an overtly manipulative, emotional, ordinary movie watching experience. It does have a few dialogue problems. It seems like some of the interactions between these working class folks might be a bit contrived, over written by people who are NOT working class folks at all.

This is an up close and personal type of movie. Lots of tight shots on each character while they react silently with exaggerated expressions and that clever emoting that I’m sure they learned in acting class at some point in their lives. Then again, this is a story about “real” people and it builds a story around their families, and their individual extraordinary devotion to a job that puts them in harm’s way everyday. There’s no magic, no super hero powers, no showing off, or grandstanding, the story has to rely on the humility of the people behind the faces of the fictional characters. There are several moments when I felt the drama was a bit thick, but it’s all for a good cause, to take us closer to feeling something for these people, and it works.

The action is amazing, of course. With all real fire, real stunts, no CGI trickery and a big budget to back it all up they don’t cut corners on putting the actors in the middle a real battle with their characters’ arch enemy, fire. The sounds are spot on and the feeling you get for these guys going into burning buildings is real. You forget for a few minutes that it’s all safe and fine because it’s a movie set. I had several times when I had to semi close my eyes in anticipation of what may happen next…NOW THAT is a good trick. I rarely have real life reactions to movies, but they do a fantastic job of taking you inside the world that firefighters face every time they go to work. That goes a lot way to making a good movie watching experience in my book.

Be ready for the very very emotional musical score. This is one of the most manipulative sound tracks I have ever heard. I’m just saying that if you are not emotional investment of the characters of the story as you go along, the music might just do it’s handy work and push you over the edge.

It’s a good ride through a world we rarely see, firefighters at work and in their lives. I know it’s a movie, but it’s as close as I could imagine it might be like and I appreciate the producers, director, and everyone involved to be respectful of these hardworking people who do exist beyond the big screen.

Value: 9/10
For around 17 bucks you can get Ladder 49 on DVD online. That’s a good deal if you are into watching these kinds of dramas over and over. The extras are good enough to make it a DVD to add to your collection, but then again, I don’t think of this as the kind of movie I would watch lots of times in the future. I would rent it and later on, say around Christmas, you may find it in the bargain bin.

Overall Score 8/10