Friday, May 3, 2024

2K Replay: LADDER 49

 by Adam Riske

Nominated for “Outstanding Translated Foreign Film” at the Huabiao Film Awards. It lost to King Arthur and The Interpreter, which both won in a tie.

• Best Scene/Moment: The sequence where Jack (Joaquin Phoenix) saves a girl from an apartment fire on Christmas Eve.

• Best Song: “Love Sneakin’ Up On You” by Bonnie Raitt.
• Best Merch: A “Ladder 49 Fireman’s Helmet Shaped DVD Movie Promo Pin Button” for $8.50. This is a promotional pin from Walmart promoting the 3/8/05 DVD release of Ladder 49. Someone should buy this to get the word out especially if they’re in the possession of a time machine that will take them back to Q1 2005. P.S. My DVD is Full Screen. So frustrating.

• Director Grade: Ladder 49 was directed by Jay Russell. He’s made only a handful of movies (his most recent being One Christmas Eve back in 2014) and I enjoy most of the ones I’ve seen. My favorite of his is My Dog Skip, which you owe it to yourself to seek out if you haven’t seen it. It’s about as good of a “boy and his dog” movie as you can get. Russell also directed Tuck Everlasting, which I have a soft spot for. I’m surprised his directorial career was so short since he’s good at maintaining an earnest tone and getting solid performances from his actors. Overall Grade: B.

• Double It with This 2004 Movie: The Alamo

• Year 2004 Movies to Trailer Before Them: Hidalgo, The Punisher, The Village

Color of Night or Ladder 49? Color of Night

• Mall Movie? Nope. Disney melodramas with stars plays at the fancy theater in town.
• Only in 2004: Me being super invested in firefighter media between this movie and the Denis Leary TV series Rescue Me.

• Scene Stealer: John Travolta.

• I Miss: Touchstone Pictures.

• I Don’t Miss: Movies where Joaquin Phoenix plays a normal person. He’s better at portraying misfits and weirdos in my humble opinion.

• 2004 Crush: Jacinda Barrett.

• 2024 Crush: Jacinda Barrett.
• What I Thought in 2004: I liked it. Even though I knew I was being emotionally manipulated and the movie wasn’t a top-tier firefighter flick, there was enough there where I thought it was a B+. This was solid 2004 dad cinema.

• What I Think in 2024: It’s fine. I didn’t like Ladder 49 as much as I did in 2004 but I’m very aware that a reverent tribute film about firemen was appropriate in the years following the events of 9/11/2001. The ensemble cast is appealing even if most don’t have enough to do, and John Travolta brings a good amount of gravitas to his mentor role. I think Joaquin Phoenix (an actor I like) is a bit miscast -- he seems too old for this part -- and the firefighting sequences pale in comparison to movies like Backdraft, but it’s not anything that sinks the movie. I miss when star-driven programmers like this played in theaters.

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