Ladder 49 is a 2004 American disaster thriller film directed by Jay Russell and written by Lewis Colick. The film was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Morris Chestnut, and Robert Patrick. The film was released on October 1, 2004.
Under the leadership of Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta), Firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes starts off small for Firehouse 33 and becomes a veteran firefighter. Later, during a mission, he gets stuck in a blaze and the team has to rescue him.
- It almost managed not to copy the writing or the plot of 1991's Backdraft, instead, it was almost decently written and is not copied from the script of Backdraft making the film feel like it's similar to the original film.
- The opening scene is pretty violent and hellish involving a big group of firefighters trying to save a worker while inside of the tall grain storage facility building before the violent explosion occurs.
- Nearly memorable characters like Jack Morrison and Mike Kennedy (who was a Captain later Chief).
- Some deaths are pretty terrifying to some viewers, (eg. When Firefighter Billy Burke stands on a roof and the roof floor suddenly sinks in with violent flames sticking out and resulting in him to fall and die.
- Good directing by Jay Russell.
- It was interesting to hear fire dispatchers speak in the opening scene in an offscreen manner, which was not shown in most firefighting films.
- The acting is pretty decent, especially for Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta.
- The film still tells you what the risks that need to be taken when you're a firefighter, and when you're in serious danger during fighting the flames at buildings.
- The plot is nearly as hellish and full of excitement like Backdraft was with an even darker tone of the story with wildfires everywhere during the film's premise.
- There is some suspense throughout the film like during Christmas Eve with Jack going through dark smoke before the fire traps Jack while he struggles to to save a boy's sister is pretty suspenseful and when Lenny Richter (Robert Patrick) pops up out of nowhere to get Jack out and both successfully rescue the sister.
- Despite the film being serious, it has pretty funny scenes: such as Mike wearing his underwear in front of Jack while welcoming him to Engine 33, a goose in the locker and probably the most amusing is when Jack announces that Linda is going to have a baby. In response to the announcement, Tommy says to him, "Jack, you can't have a baby without a shower." After Tommy tells Jack that, the other firefighters jokingly dump a bucket of water on him. Another funny moment is when Tommy takes his shirt off following a drinking competition with Jack after Linda announces "Last one to empty their glasses runs naked around the bar."
- Tommy Drake (Morris Chestnut's character) is a pretty good supporting character and is arguably the most amusing comic relief character in the film.
- Just like Backdraft, the firefighting scenes are exciting and memorable, especially when Jack goes out on his first call.
- The fire effects in the film are even more violent and realistic making it a great improvement over the effects in Backdraft.
- William Ross' score is epic and decently composed.
- Jay Russell actually got tips from Ron Howard, the director of Backdraft on making the film, which makes it a capable post-Backdraft film.
- It's nice to see a montage of Jack's life and legacy in the closing scenes after the funeral scene, but it's still quite sad.
- The scene where the firefighters fail to save Jack and Jack decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and Jack's funeral at the end of the movie is pretty sad. Thankfully, it was not pointless and thankfully we don't see him die.
- At the end of the film, the department bid a meaningful farewell to Jack soon after his death and moved on with their careers in the fire service despite the loss of Jack.
- The plot can suffer from being a bit predictable at times.
- Again, there are some things about the film that are still not really realistic at all.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. However, the film received positive reviews from audiences and fans of firefighting and currently holds an 81% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper awarded the film with a "two thumbs up."