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Ladder 49

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Ladder 49

Starring: John Travolta, Joaquin Phoenix
Director: Jay Russell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: October 2004
Genres: Action, Suspense, Drama

*Also starring: Morris Chestnut, Jay Hernandez, Jacinda Barrett, Kevin Daniels, Robert Patrick, Kevin Chapman, Balthazar Getty, Billy Burke, Tim Guinee

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Do you remember those field trips in third grade–to the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, to the local police precinct and, far from least, the nearest fire house? No wonder kids say (mostly) men without college educations, the pay is quite OK in a big city like New York and presumably in Baltimore where "Ladder 49" takes place–though the water in that latter city has no relation to one of its leading citizens, John Waters. "Ladder 49" pays homage to fire fighters in Big City USA by showing them to be not only capable of heroic deeds but actually volunteering for them, as did the principal figure in Jay Russell's movie, Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) when he volunteered to transfer from the truck to a search-and-rescue unit.

The story is told in flashback, as Jack becomes trapped in a blazing warehouse after having rescued a man from the scene. He thinks of all he will soon lose, which brings us to the local Baltimore firehouse, to the bar where the men gather to quaff beer and have drinking contests, to a Sunday lawn party where the men once against take part in a barbeque to celebrate the birthday of a young fella. You've got to wonder, though, how these guys, friendly though they might be with one another, can firehouse, they go to funerals as a unit...don't they have friends outside this immediate circle and, if not, don't they sometimes feel like climbing the walls from seeing one another so often? Lewis Colick's script does little to show us what the life of any one of these men is really like aside from the fact that they honor their wives and love their children. But under Jay Russell's direction, we privy only to their heroism, their camaraderie, one guy's love for the wife, Linda (Jacinda Barrett) he met while in the supermarket (again, with a firehouse buddy!), and their unanimous belief that their chief, Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta) is a great guy. "Ladder 49" makes for a good TV special about what goes on in the firehouse, what fighting real infernos is like, and how the fire fighters are loyal and loving to their wives.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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