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‘Ladder 49’ turns up the heat

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By Johnathan Kroncke

By Johnathan Kroncke

“What makes firefighters run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out?” This is the question posed by John Travolta, who plays Mike Kennedy, captain of Ladder 49, Engine 33.

It almost impossible to watch this movie without reflecting upon a family member or a friend who is a hero underneath the yellow, fire-retardant coat and helmet or considering the heroics performed by the firefighters who gave their lives in the events of September 11, 2001.

“Ladder 49” is an excellent look into any firefighter’s life. Jack Morrison, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is trapped inside a massive burning building after rescuing a trapped worker. As he lay, busted up from head to toe after the floor he was on collapsed, Jack reflects upon his life and how he ended up in the position he was in.

The story starts out with a rookie firefighter named Jack Morrison reporting for duty for the first time. As expected, the other men at the station play pranks on him as well as force him to do the most demeaning work at the station like mopping the bathroom and waxing the brass pole.

After enjoying his first brush with flames at a local apartment building, Jack meets a girl at supermarket. This girl would soon become the love of Jack’s life and they would be married shortly thereafter.

However, this movie is not all fun and frolic. While it may have its lighter scenes, “Ladder 49” is certainly not without pain and loss. The heart-wrenching section where Captain Kennedy and a priest console the firehouse after one of the men died brings tears to the eye.

Linda Morrison, played by Jacinda Barrett, of course opposed the work her husband did because she worried that every time he went off to work, he might not come home. But she also understood that she wanted for him to be happy in his life and his work.

The scenes of Jack and Linda are also quite sweet, especially when they are sitting on the back porch of their house alone and they are just looking into the night sky. Anyone who has experienced true love could relate to this scene.

Eventually, the firehouse gets a new rookie and Jack gets to pass on the same pranks that were passed on to him. He also takes his deceased partner’s place and switches to become a “trucky,” or one the drives the truck and performs the search and rescue portion of each call they get.

The entire movie cuts in and out from the story of Jack’s career and life to the present where he is trapped and his buddies from the firehouse are scrambling to find any way to get to him.

These scenes are also heart-wrenching as one can only imagine what his wife and kids must be going through.

While the scenes of the large fires in decrepit buildings are spectacular at times, there is somewhat of an overuse of huge, fiery explosions. It is not realistic to think that every fire that breaks out is accompanied by some large scale disaster like an explosion or a collapse. It is forgivable because after all, it is a movie.

It just seems as though a few more of the smaller but still thrilling fires could have supported the believability of this movie.

The bottom line, “Ladder 49” is not a rehash of “Backdraft.” It stands alone as it’s own dramatic tale of the real firefighters who gives their lives everyday to save those who can’t save themselves.

With excellent performances by John Travolta as the strong and decisive captain and Joaquin Phoenix as the rookie who turns into one of the best firefighters the station had ever seen, “Ladder 49” is definitely a sight for all movie goers.

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