Preview by: Jack Foley
THE American firefighter will forever hold a place in the hearts
of the world since the events of September 11, 2001. But their
use in movies is nothing new, having been immortalised in the
likes of Ron Howards Backdraft, as well as, to a lesser
extent, in movies such as Frequency (starring Dennis Quaid).
One of Touchstones big releases of the year, however, Ladder
49, could well capitalise on the current fascination for the fire
service, by turning in a genuinely affecting character study,
coupled with the spectacle of any film involving burning buildings.
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.
It is due for release in the UK on January 21, , 2005, and is
devised, in part, as a tribute to the heroics of the fire service,
in general. As such, some 30 real-life firefighters are said to
cameo in the films fire-fighting scenes.
The stars, themselves, were dedicated to honouring the service
they are seeking to portray and, according to an extensive article
(and photos) on the website, firehouse.com, spent a lot of time
with members of the Baltimore fire service, at the city training
Phoenix, especially, enjoyed the challenge of becoming personally
involved and jumped in with an academy class, subsequently graduating
with class members. He even spent a number of weeks working a
shift with a west Baltimore truck company.
He is also said to have knocked down some fires,
or slayed the dragon, and admits to having lost the
hose line in trying to make an exit.
Both he and Travolta remain tremendously humbled by their experience
and are both aware of the importance of learning the job, so they
can portray it correctly in the film.
Another interesting fact is the presence of female lead, Jacinda
Barrett, whos firefighter father only recently retired after
Barrett, who plays Phoenixs wife, has likened the film
to her parents story and drew a lot of comparisons between
elements of the story and her time growing up in Brisbane, where
her father worked with the emergency services.
She fondly remembers the sense of pride she felt whenever she
saw her father in newspaper clippings or on television, and loved
being around him and his firefighter colleagues, who possessed
a tremendous amount of respect for each other.
It is the bond which exists between members of the fire service
which will play a significant part of the movie, as well as the
required spectacle of the set piece blazes.
Jay Russell (Tuck Everlasting) directs from a script devised
by Lewis Collick (of Domestic Disturbance and October Sky).
There is no word, as yet, on whether the subsequent picture looks
like being one of the years hottest prospects.