Ladder 49 tries to impart this same behind-the-scenes feel to the men behind the hoses. It works to a degree...but somehow, it just drains you too much to be really enjoyable. It wants to be a more humanised Backdraft, and show more true-to-life scenes of the life of a fireman...but somehow it just ends up being, as my boyfriend put it, a "chick flick" for men.
Joachin Phoenix displays the least amount of emotion possible (as is usual in his roles) as Jack Morrison, rookie fireman, whose career we follow for 10+ years. We see him meet and marry the girl, have two kids, lose his buddy and best man in one fire and see another friend badly burned by steam. All the action happens in flashbacks we see as Jack lies in the rubble of a collapsing grain elevator, waiting for the other firefighters to find him. It's all very poignant...but ultimately...very depressing.
But apart from the script and plot, the execution is marvelous. The actors went to firefighting school in Baltimore, where the movie was filmed, to appear more authentic. The production crew used actual buildings in Baltimore for the scenes, and Baltimore firefighters advised during moviemaking. So it feels real. And Jacinta Barrett, who plays Jack's wife Linda, is the daughter of a 33-year airport firefighter, so she knows what the life is like from the inside from watching her father and mother.
It'll make you think. It'll make you want to hug your loved ones...and it'll make you take a second look at all those octopus-powerstrips and extension cords you have in your house.