Ladder 49 is a firefighter movie which gives us a better picture of the real deal in firefighting. Several facets are shown in the movie which takes us to the more intimate level of the lives of firefighters where they do their job, and the personal lives they have that are entirely affected by their being firefighters. We get a picture of how firefighters create long lasting bonds within the confines of the rigorous job and also the consequences that the job imposes to the family members. The movie may probably be the most realistic depiction of firefighting scenarios in the US by far in film history.
Theoretically, the creator of the film has employed firefighter circumstances and made it as real as it can possibly get. There are, of course, some differences made due to the cinematic requirements imposed by the film industry. But overall Ladder 49 may just be about the closest look into the realities of firefighting. The story revolves around Jack Morrison, as played by Joaquin Phoenix, who worked as a firefighter for a Baltimore station. The plots of the story are basically just about Jack Morrison’s career, his personal life, and the tragic event which lead to his unfortunate demise.
The movie shows every stage of his career as a firefighter. The highlights of the initial part of the process of being a firefighter showed immediate camaraderie within Jack and his colleagues. This is portrayed in scenes where the firefighters pull pranks within each other, get into fights with each other, and just plainly have fun together. The movie establishes the kind of relationship that the profession brings into the lives of these people; a certain bond of brotherhood that is highly needed in the nature of a profession which is always in a high risk of danger.
Also the movie presents moving fatalities and injuries as it is present in the line of work of firefighters. Jack’s personal life aspect, however, revolves around his family. The movie showed his courtship with Linda, played by Jacinda Barrett, to their marriage and to having their own family. The more personal level of the movie gets into scenes where the it shows the effects of Jack’s being a fire fighter to the family members. One example is when Linda gets too affected with the line of work of her husband as she came into her senses when she was in a funeral of Jack’s colleague.
Then the movie further shows her distress in scenes where she, while pregnant, sees her husband on the television performing a highly dangerous stunt while saving a life. This also presents the kind of trouble the marriage gets into as they fight over the danger of his career and the fear that it entails. Eventually thereafter, they had children of their own and built a family while Jack pursues a higher, more hazardous post in the department. One of the most moving storylines of the film is where Linda declares her fear of seeing the red car showing up outside their house.
In real life, the red car means that the firefighting department is to report not just the death of the family member working for the department but it can also be an injured family member. Thereafter, in the latter part of the film, it did show up and it is probably one of the most moving portrayals of how the consequences of the line of work of firefighting can heavily affect personal relationships. The movie basically revolved around a scene where Jack struggles to survive in one very tragic happening amidst an instance where he was doing his job. He was trapped in between a closed space and a heavy amount of fire.
During these times, the movie just draws flashbacks of all the highlights of Jack’s career as a firefighter, his relationship with his colleagues, and his personal life with his family. The movie started with this scene and practically ended in it as well. It shows scenes where Jack talks to his captain, Mike Kennedy, as played by John Travolta, while he was struggling to escape from the fire. It also showed the moving, and tragic scene where Jack gave up and declared that he should be left alone inside the burning building and have his captain command the rest of the firefighters to evacuate.
Subsequently, his death marked a tremendous loss in Baltimore as it was presented in scenes of Jack’s funeral ceremonies. Although this movie is deemed to be a very good depiction of the real life scenarios of firefighters, there are still some irregularities in the movie that can be addressed. Some of the scenes may even seem to be unrealistic and are obviously integrated in the movie to add to certain levels of the film industry’s entertainment standards. One manifestation of this irregularity is when Mike Kennedy, Jack’s captain, orders his firefighters to go inside the burning building to get Jack.
This would seem very appropriate for the movie as a medium of telling the audience that Jack needs help. However, the truth is in real life firefighting situations, there are no protocols whatsoever that requires the captain to signal a command to get their fellow firefighter out of danger. Firefighters are trained to be highly independent on pursuing their tasks amidst adverse conditions. This is because most of the time communication between each other and even with the captain is not easily accessible.
This consequently trains the firefighters to act based on their instincts which also mean that if a fellow firefighter is in danger there should not be thinking twice and waiting for commands. Instead instinct should take its toll to just try to save the life of the fellow fire fighter in danger in any way possible. Another inconsistency is when Mike Kennedy tries to exert as much sympathy as possible to the loss of one of their colleague due to a fire incidence. He tells his subordinates to take as much rest as they need.
However, in a real firefighting scenario, bereavement does not require time off as the responsibilities entailed in firefighting are broad and cannot just be neglected easily. There can be no disclosures of irregular time offs with firefighters as it is very important that they report to their stations adequately and on time. As shown in the film, there is a scene where they show the firefighters in the station resting in their beds, and when there is a call for duty they just instantly position themselves to get ready for work.
This just goes to show that time is indeed important in the firefighter’s duties and responsibilities. This movie also missed hitting it in a much more sensible treatment in such case as Jack’s declaration of a hopeless situation. This is when he deliberately asked his captain to stop the rescue and just have the rest of the team leave the premises because there is no chance that he can survive the circumstances. In real life situation however, there is no chance that the captain will fall for the command of his subordinate and just let the firefighter in danger burn.
The real life situation would be less dramatic, and more action-oriented. The firefighters will do just about everything to save the life of their fellow man even if the said person in danger asks for him to be left alone. This is what the camaraderie and brotherhood brings about which is discussed earlier However, above all these irregularities in the film are also many great and truthful depictions of the real life firefighting scenarios. One of which that made a clear portrayal of the firefighting scene is the quick death of one of the firefighters.
The instantaneous death is very similar to how it really happens in real life. The swiftness of the events in life and death situations is just as fast as it is depicted in the movie. Also, the scenes where Jack was amidst a burning house searching for someone who is in trouble of getting burnt inside is a good depiction of real life firefighting. The actions and happenings inside have a genuine feel to it. In other movies which show fire scenes, smoke conditions are not really as heavy as it truthfully is because audience will not be able to see anything if the realistic amount of smoke is integrated in the film.
But Ladder 49 made a really good representation of how the smoke can be inside the burning building. This also shows how Jack struggle to get through with the situation in ways such as crawling in the dark and knocking some things over. Generally, the film may be perceived as just another drama portraying the heroism of firefighters. But more than anything else, this movie portrays everything that is good and bad in the firefighting profession. This also makes us appreciate that such people who are ready to risk lives for the welfare of everyone still exists in our society.
Ochieng, F. (2004). Ladder 49. The Top Box Office Movies. Retrieve December 19, 2008 from http://www. theworldjournal. com/special/movies/2004/ladder49. htm Scott, D. (2004). Review: ‘Ladder 49’ Burns With Heated Action. Joaquin Phoenix Gives Sincere Performance. Retieved December 19, 2008 from http://www. 4029tv. com/entertainment/3775785/detail. html Bolton, G. (Producer, & Russell, J. (Director). (2004). Ladder 49 [ Motion picture]. United States: Touchstone Pictures & Beacon Communications.
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