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Ladder 49Ladder 49

Starring: Joacquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Tim Guinee, Billy Burke, Balthazar and Morris Chesnut.
Director: Jay Russell
Joaquin Phoenix Interview
John Travolta Interview
World Premiere Red Carpet Footage

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Bluntly speaking? Ladder 49 is the most moving, emotionally stirring, film of the year. Joaquin Phoenix will break your heart as Jack Morrison.

Ladder 49 is more than just another hero infused Hollywood blockbuster. It is a film truly made, with care, to honor the men (and women) who wear the fireman uniform. The film makers have tilted the halo a bit though. Oh, the heroism is still firmly worn like an armor, but Ladder's firemen are less Hollywood cutouts; they get annoyed, fight with their wives, they party, and they have no idea why it is they "run into a fire while others run away." It's the realness that keeps you drawn into this ode.

Story goes… Jack Morrison's a firefighter. It's in his blood. He and his fellow men are in the middle of an inferno when Jack falls into an area, which could mean his end - literally.

His team - his brothers - go into action utilizing all the equipment and training they've used time and time again, but this time it's one of their own in there.

Jack is stuck. He's alone and injured. Faced with the what-may-be Jack starts to think about his life…

We go back with him to his first nervous days in the fire station with the men he now considers brothers. We watch an intimate group work and play hard, grow inseparable, and form a lasting bond one suspects comes from living on the edge.

We watch Jack grow into a hero that never thinks twice about his duty or his calling. We watch as he meets his love. It's a beauty named Linda (Jacinda Barrett). As their love blossoms and the years turn into a family, we watch how that firefighter's family is affected everyday when he walks through that door to walk into fires.

We watch the reality of Jack's work as he helps save a child, visits a fallen firefighter in the hospital and attends another's funeral. But it's not all drama and tears - far from it. Jack's a real man riding the waves like the rest of us. Except when he goes to work he may not come home, or he may save a stranger, or he may watch a lot of TV without incident.

And all the time we are laughing at the lighter side of Jack's days we are reminded, and then painfully aware, of where we came into his world. The situation Jack is currently in - and the fire is closing in and Jack lay there - a fireman down - awaiting his own rescue.

The film works because of the realism director Jay Russell captured and a script that shook its sugar coating a bit. Casting everyman mega-talent Joaquin Phoenix was a brilliant move. Joac is known for disappearing into a role - and here he is Jack. His layered performance and his genuine ability to become this man radiates off the screen and into your heart. He's also devilishly handsome in jump gear...

Joac's Captain in the film is played by John Travolta. Travolta anchors the film. John, the "real person" already has a kind of energy about him of kindness. Here they tap that like a Grade A sapling. As Capt. Kennedy Travolta is a light-hearted clown and a rock-steady leader you'd trust your life to.

This adorable find Jacinda Barrett lends a depth to Linda, "the wife at home, " that also helps lift the film out of blockbuster mode and into a voyeuristic journey the filmmakers seem to have intended.

The rest of the "boys" in helmets, like Billy Burke, Tim Guinee, Morris Chestnut, Balthazar Getty, and Robert Patrick all embody firemen. You buy each one of their characters. Oh, sure the film's a manfest extravaganza complete with hot uniforms - especially this yummitini Billy Burke (purr) - but we already knew firemen were sexy in that manly-man way…the film shows us the other side, the silent hero side. To these fire battling bravehearts it's just what they do.

Run and see this remarkable film - but bring hankies because there's a ton of life moments that'll make you heave cry...just warnin' you. Buy the DVD

Snack recommendation: Joacamole and chips.

 


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