Under the watchful eye of his mentor Captain Mike Kennedy, probationary firefighter Jack Morrison matures into a seasoned veteran at a Baltimore fire station. Jack has reached a crossroads, however, as the sacrifices he's made have put him in harm's way innumerable times and significantly impacted his relationship with his wife and kids. Responding to the worst blaze in his career, he becomes trapped inside a 20-story building. And as he reflects on his life, now Deputy Chief Kennedy frantically coordinates the effort to save him.
As part of a preparation for the movie, Joaquin Phoenix trained for a month at a fire academy and spent another month with the men of Baltimore's Truck 10. He became an "honorary member" and had the same tattoo as the men of the company, a bumble bee wearing a fire helmet with an axe. See more »
When the fight breaks out in the firehouse, coffee gets spilled on the table. But in the next shot, the table is spotless. See more »
Hey! What the hell is going on in here! Huh? I come back from tellin' a mother her son is dead, and this is goin' on, in my house, IN MY HOUSE! We deal with this by stickin' together. We take it. We learn from it. And we get back on the god damn truck and that's how we honor Dennis. You got that? Anyone think about lowering the flag? Do it!
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Joaquin Phoenix gives a moving performance in "Ladder 49," playing a Baltimore firefighter who goes from rookie to 10-year veteran in the course of the story.
Although its chief selling point is its spectacular - but never hyperbolic - fire sequences, "Ladder 49" is actually at its most compelling when it focuses on the struggle firemen go through trying to balance their high risk occupation with their role as husband and father.
In addition to Phoenix, who brings a self-effacing strength and heroism to his character, there are fine performances by John Travolta as the captain of the station, and Jacinda Barrett as Phoenix's understanding but understandably concerned wife.
In the first half of the film, the screenplay threatens to erupt into a raging inferno of stereotypes and clichés, as the characters take an occasional time out from firefighting for puppy love romance at the supermarket, frat boy antics at the fire station and domestic squabbles involving neglected wives and children at the old homestead. But about halfway through the film, the deeper themes rise to the surface and "Ladder 49" begins to explore complex issues in a mature way. The quiet scenes between Phoenix and Travolta, and Phoenix and Barrett are surprisingly subtle, thoughtful and intelligently written.
It takes a while to get there, but "Ladder 49" turns out to be a tribute worthy of its subject.
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