Climbing the “Ladder 49”

Alfred C. Chu, Staff Writer

I walked into the theater expecting to see “Ladder 49” as a movie that makes firefighters seem like heroes to the point that Superman couldn’t measure up to them even on his best day a firefighter. I got what I expected and even more. In addition, “Ladder 49” also projects the image that firefighters are everyday people dealing with everyday problems. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Jack Morrison and John Travolta as Captain Mike Kennedy.

The story revolves around a response to a burning 20 story warehouse. They are told that there are still people missing inside, but the grain dust could explode at any minute. Morrison saves a helpless man, but the grain dust blows and he falls through several floors. Injured, alone and partly unconscious, Morrison recounts a series of flashbacks. Morrison’s flashbacks start with his first day joining Baltimore City Fire Department’s Engine 33 and putting out his first blaze.

He then recalls meeting his future wife, Linda (Jacinda Barrett), in a supermarket, their wedding, the day they realize their pregnant, and the birth of their children. Morrison also remembers the loss of fellow firefighters and saving the lives of many people.

 the film centers around Morrison. He loves the job and is loyal to his station. He sees Kennedy as a father figure and regrets the worry his job puts on his family. The most effective scenes are not of him battling the blaze but the interaction between and his co-workers and his family. I assume the reason why director Jay Russell chose real fires instead of the cheesy CGI fires is because the added effect makes the situation seem more real.

Phoenix and Travolta are convincing as complex characters. The other firefighters, Lenny Richter (Robert Patrick), Tommy Drake (Morris Chestnut), Dennis and Ray Gauguin (Billy Burke and Balthazar Getty), Tony Corrigan (Tim Guinee), Frank Mckinny, (Kevin Chapman) and Don Miller (Kevin Daniels) work so well together, that it seemed like these men have spent months, if not years, together.

I consider this a movie with a good and bad ending though that doesn’t make it a bad movie. But if it was me, I’d change the ending. I won’t give it away, but it was so heartfelt and touching that I almost cried.

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos