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Ladder 49 - US reaction



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 emotions."

While the Washington Post felt that 'even the best scenes feel canned, secondhand, packaged. We've seen this all before'.


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 its job'.

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 line."

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.

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