Compiled by: Jack Foley
LADDER 49, Touchstone Pictures' telling tribute to the firemen
of America, opened at the number two spot in America, when it
was released on October 1, 2004, despite mixed reviews.
The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as an everyday fire hero, who
finds himself trapped in an inferno, awaiting rescue, who uses
the time to reflect on his experiences and relationship with his
commanding officer, John Travolta.
Leading the reviews round-up, however, is the Chicago
Tribune, which described it as 'a condescending and cloying
melodrama, constructed around the almighty flashback and slick
in pretending to tell the human story'.
While the Los Angeles Times predicted that 'it's
more likely you'll wind up suffering from compassion fatigue than
be drawn in to the story'.
USA Today felt that it 'needs cogent drama or
star power, but it doesn't have either'.
While the Hollywood Reporter felt that 'the
makers of Ladder 49 insist that halos remain above its firemen/heroes,
which is not the way to humanize them'.
The same sentiment was shared by the San Francisco Chronicle,
which wrote: "In its determination to create a tribute, the
filmmakers smooth too many edges and simplify too many complex
While the Washington Post felt that 'even the
best scenes feel canned, secondhand, packaged. We've seen this
There were some positive reviews,
though, with the New York Daily News describing
it as 'a profile in everyday courage, the common denominator of
men who fight fires for a living, choosing to go into buildings
that other people are trying to get out of'.
And Entertainment Weekly stating that 'aside
from the awesome flames and pyrotechnic scenes of crisis, danger,
and part-of-the-job bravery, the movie is a quiet salute; it does
Positive, too, were Ebert and Roeper, who concluded
that it 'does a wonderful job of showing life in that firehouse'.
And the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which opined:
"The movie isn't afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.
But the sentiment never seems out of place, perhaps because we're
talking about people who aren't afraid to put their lives on the
Salon.com, meanwhile, wrote that 'Ladder 49
might have been an oversized Hollywood dazzler. Phoenix keeps
it firmly and modestly on a human scale'.
And the Chicago Sun-Times stated that 'the best
compliment I can pay Ladder 49 is to say that it left me feeling
thoughtful and sad'.
The Boston Globe, meanwhile, wrote that 'as
more than one character reminds us, these are men who run into
burning buildings when you and I are busy running out. All the
boilerplate in Hollywood can't change that'.
The Las Vegas Review Journal agreed, stating:
"Sure, it's cornier than Orville Redenbacher's home pasture,
more predictable than a digital clock clicking the minutes away.
But a little heart can go a long way."
But the final word goes to the Houston Chronicle,
which concluded that it's 'an imperfect but deeply affecting movie
about the unadorned heroism of working-class firefighters'.
The movie opens in the UK on January 21, 2005.