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Ladder 49 heats up big screen

by Kyle Galdiera, Sports editor

 

When the horrific attacks on New York City and The Pentagon shocked the country on September 11, 2001, firefighters put their lives on the line—as the do every day—to help survivors reach safety.

Ladder 49 provides a glimpse into the lives of firefighters and the risks and sacrifices they make every day so that the citizens they protect can feel safe.

 

The film opens with firefighter Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) lying battered and stunned after falling four floors in a collapsing, flame-filled warehouse. Morrison’s former captain and mentor, Fire Chief Mike Kennedy (John Travolta), works with other firefighters to plan a rescue attempt as debris and flames surround him. The fallen firefighter thinks about his career leading up to the accident.

Morrison flashes back to his first day in the Baltimore, Md., firehouse when he is initiated through a series of practical jokes and childish pranks. The film revolves around the relationships formed as the firefighters become a tight-knit family. The group celebrates in the local bar after jobs done well, and it finds ways to stick together when members of the company face injury and death.

While shopping for firehouse groceries as a rookie, Morrison meets Linda (Jacinda Barrett), and the couple falls in love. The film follows the newlyweds as they cope with the dangers of his job while raising two children along the way. Linda is constantly worried that she will be widowed, and her fear, coupled with the near death of fellow firefighter Tommy Drake (Morris Chestnut) whose face is severely burned by steam from an electrical plant fire, causes Morrison to ponder moving to a desk job. But his passion for fighting fires keeps him on the front lines.

In order to prepare for the movie, the cast went through fire camp to expose themselves to the high heat and suffocating smoke faced by real firefighters. Phoenix took the training a step further and joined and graduated with a Baltimore Fire Academy class. He stayed on with a truck company for a month and responded to real fires, emergencies, and rescues.

Director Jay Russell wanted to create fires for the film that would seem as real as possible, so 99 percent of the fires seen in the movie are real. Russell felt that digital fires would undermine the audience’s experience of what the firefighters were going through as they crawl through burning hallways and navigate smoke-choked buildings.

This film is rated PG-13 for intense fire and rescue situations as well as adult language

 

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