Ladder 49

Year: 2004
Director: Jay Russell
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut
Absolutely no surprises or challenges to this completely by-numbers drama.

Its genesis is very much in September 11. Someone wanted to make a movie about firefighters because they are the new hero. But never have I sat through a movie with such a pedestrian character or story arc. There was absolutely no drama or tension (apart from the fire), and every turn was a fixture you just knew would be there to turn the story along.

Boy starts work at firehouse, makes friends immediately with workmates and easygoing Captain (Travolta), loses friends in fires over the years, falls in love with beautiful girl, starts a family who worry that his luck will run out - all in the middle of showing what down to earth, salt of the earth guys they all are.

We see all this in flashbacks as Jack (Phoenix) lays injured in a huge warehouse fire. Even the ending is pedestrian, as every possible eventuality is milked for whatever emotions it's worth.

The result is a hammered together collection of scenes of a day in the life of a heroic, blue collar firefighter just trying to make his way in the world as he saves people's lives with no real development except the passing of frames.

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