When a large forest fire breaks out in the mountains of Montana, a squad of 'Smoke Jumpers', the paratroop-corps of fire-fighters in the U. S. Forest Service, is flown to the scene from their regional headquarters in Missoula, Montana. The Forest Rangers, under Cliff Mason, put out the blaze, but several of the fire-fighters are killed. Ed Miller, son of one of the dead rangers, thinks he died because Mason was a coward, and sets out to prove it. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This film is very loosely based upon an actual event known among smokejumpers -- and the entire state of Montana -- as the Mann Gulch tragedy, in which 12 out of 15 smokejumpers were burned to death. Norman Maclean, author of "A River Runs Through It" and a resident of Missoula, Montana, home to the first smokejumpers and now the principal school for them, spent the last 13 years of his life research the event, in incredible detail, and writing an utterly fascinating book, "Young Men and Fire", which I heartily recommend.
Obviously, since the book was not published until after Maclean's death in 1990, it was not the basis for the movie, but the event was.
I first saw it in a fund-raising presentation in the Wilma, an old Art Deco theater in Missoula, coincidently sitting beside a student from the Smokejumper Center. His attention was rapt. The funds, BTW, were used to recover and restore the actual DC-3 that carried the Mann Gulch smokejumpers.
There is an account of the presentations made at the 2004 National Smokejumpers Association reunion by the spotter (gives the "go" signal, on board the aircraft), the dispatcher, and one of the survivors from the Mann Gulch tragedy, found on the University of Montana Web site, at www2.umt.edu/comm/f04/airplanes.shtml. It's short but intense, and will give you an appreciation of what happened. Then the book . . .
In electing to give this a 9, I've taken into account the technology available and the style of movie making and acting of the times. I would say the acting would rank significantly lower by today's standards. But it is well worth watching.
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