Ladder 49 DVD: Review By Brian

Overall, it's a pretty cool drama.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
The actors are stellar.
For as much as it has going for it, it still seems to be lacking something.
I can't believe the quality of this movie. A stellar cast totally underutilized. A script that proves adds to the fact that Hollywood is driven by money, and not art. And an ultimate end result that makes me wish I had my 115 minutes back.

Written before 9/11, then obviously set after the events of the tragic day, Ladder 49 plays on the emotions of tru-to-life heros in the hazardous occupation of fighting fires. Most fire fighting films are going to attract a lot of U.S. viewers as there is a true place in the heart of America for these every day heros, especially after the events of 9/11. And though this movie tries, yet not very hard, to be that 'hero movie of the year' that moviegoers tend to eat up with a spoon, Ladder 49 shamefully comes no where close.

I don't blame the actors for this fumble of a flick. Everyone is up to par here in their skills. Joaquin Phoenix,&#160&#160John Travolta, Robert Patrick, Jacinda Barrett and the rest of the cast pull off performances that are all well worthy of their careers, and it shows on screen.

As well, I don't even know if you can blame the director for the faults of this flick either. The cast was directed as they should have been and the cinematography and direction was all filmed in a professionally artistic manner. So, the content was there to create a more intriguing film, but something was a miss i the output.

Maybe the script was shotty to begin with. Maybe the studio hand was too involved in the final product. But this movie was horrible. The editing is the main place I point the finger of blame. You zipped through Jack Morrison's life and perils of being a firefighter way too fast.

My biggest complaint...the music. What the heck was up with the crappy contemporary soundtrack filled with sappy acoustic jams about love and feelings which try so desperately to evoke some high emotional content? Ugh. What an annoying aspect. 15 minutes of "movie" then some montage sequence accompanied by some quickly forgotten song. Horrible, horrible stuff.

Phoenix, Travolta, Patrick and the rest...keep your chin up. Better movies on on their way. This movie wasn't your fault.
I was dreading this DVD review so much that I put off looking into the special features for a while. Nonetheless, the features are plentiful for a movie of this stature, that is, if you even care at all after watching the feature.

Deleted Scenes

All pretty standard stuff according to the world of DVDs in the market today. A collection of deleted scenes for your viewing pleasure is accompanied. Like the movie itself, nothing remarkable here.

Audio Commentary

Director Jay Russell and editor Bud Smith both give their takes on the film as they sit with you for a feature length commentary track. Insightful details about the film and the direction it took, but in no way revealing why this film felt so uninspired.

Making of Featurette

A great featurette that takes you behind-the-scenes of the film, talks to the actors and talks with the real firefighter who advised on the film. Great stuff for anyone wanting to look into the world of fire fighting. An interesting piece the doc covers is the conversation director Jay Russell had with Ron Howard, who directed 1991's Backdraft about filming a fire fighting movie. Some great inside info into the film's creation.

Everyday Heroes: Real Stories from real fire fighters

Probably the best feature on the disc. This features dives into the world of fire fighting and takes you behind some of the stories from people that live them everyday. A worthy treat that redeems the quality of this movie a tiny bit.

Robbie Robertson "Shine Your Light" Music Video

This sort of tie-in is exactly why I hate this DVD. Sorry Buena Vista.
Presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture is sharp and presents itself quite well. Sweeping shots of various buildings and the underlying city really put the picture quality to the test and pass with flying colors. The beauty of the fire's essence is captured and fully realized in the presentation of the film on this disc, and with a storyline that isn't up to par, viewers can rest assured that at least the visuals will prevail to be excellent on any screen they choose to watch on.
Presented in a THX certified English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the audio is pristine and compliments the clarity of the picture flawlessly. The mixing and mastering is also very prominent, which is important to this film since it highly relies on many of the action sequences in the film to pull the weight of the emotional impact. Good stuff.
Standard clamshell case featuring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta on the cover with some fire fighting swag. I'm sure if the DVD does well in numbers this week in it's release we'll see a more suped up version hit DVD at a later date. Or not.
If you're really, really bored and you've seen all the other new releases on the shelf at Blockbuster, your last resort should be Ladder 49. While this movie might entertain you on the surface level, don't look for any substantial quality here. You won't find it. All you will find is a movie that will come, then go, and easily be forgotten.

Want a real firefighter flick? Go watch Backdraft.

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