On September 11, when those two planes were crushed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre
Rating: PG-13 (Violence, profanity, sexual situations)
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Morris Chestnut
Running length: 116 mins.
Director: Jay Russell
Screenplay: Lewis Colick
Showing at: Cineplex, Wilson Road from today
Preview by: Sebidde Kiryowa
On September 11, when those two planes were crushed into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, the sacrifices and courageous actions of New York firefighters elevated the profession in the hearts and minds of their countrymen.
Overnight, they became the home front equivalent of war heroes in the US.
Many movies have been made about blazes and the men who battle them, but Ladder 49 is the first made since the terrorist attacks. That put the film in a tricky situation. Critics and movie buffs were watching to see if the film would offer a thoughtful, convincing portrait of the lifestyle or simply exploit the nationâ€™s newfound appreciation of the people, who elect to live it.
The film follows Jack, a member of the Baltimore City Fire Departmentâ€™s Engine 33, into a 20-story blaze. A warehouse is on fire, and people are trapped on the 12th floor.
Thereâ€™s grain dust in the building
that could explode any moment. Jack and his team charge into the building, and Jack finds a survivor on the 12th floor.
But it is too high for the cherry-pickers or ladders to reach. â€œStick with me. Iâ€™ll take care of you,â€ he tells the guy, and lowers him out a window on a rope until firemen below can grab him, calm his panic and return him safe to earth.
The grain dust blows. Jack falls through a hole in the centre of the building and lands a few floors below, stunned, half-buried by debris.
Eventually, he regains consciousness, and is able to radio Kennedy, his chief (John Travolta), who coordinates the rescue effort. It is clear that thereâ€™s a limited window of opportunity to save Jack before the building kills him.
Alone, broken, bleeding, and drifting into and out of consciousness, Jack re-examines his life. In lengthy flashbacks, we see his first day on the job; his meeting with his future wife, Linda (Jacinda Barrett); his wedding; how he copes with the loss of a friend; and how he deals with the question of family versus job.
The film mixed reviews, but with most critics applauding it for portraying a realistic situation. Ladder 49 has the heroes and the fires and the rescues, but itâ€™s not really about them. Itâ€™s about character, and about the kind of man who risks his life for a living.
And itâ€™s about work, about what kind of a job it is to be a fireman.
Will Jack survive the blazing fire?