No Greater Love
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, John
Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, and
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Rating: PG-13 for intense fire and
rescue situations and for
Runtime: 100 minutes
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
Director: Jay Russell
Executive Producer: Armyan Bernstein and Marty P.
Producer: Casey Silver
Writer: Lewis Colick
Address Comments To:Michael Eisner, Chairman/CEO
Buena Vista Distribution Co.
(Walt Disney Pictures, Caravan, Hollywood, Miramax, and Touchstone Pictures)
Dick Cook, Chairman
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
Phone: (818) 560-1000
LADDER 49 is the ladder company of Firehouse 33 in Baltimore, Maryland. The movie opens as they attempt to fight a tremendous out of control fire in a grain elevator building. The audience is soon informed that the gas from the grain will blow at any instant.
A rescue team is sent into the building to retrieve a few people on the 12th floor. One of the rescuers is Jack Morrison, played with great realism by Joaquin Phoenix. After Jack performs a heroic rescue lowering a man to a ladder far below, the floor collapses underneath him, and Jack falls two stories. Fire chief Mike Kennedy, played by John Travolta, re-deploys the firemen to rescue Jack.
As Jack lies in a heap of concrete and destruction, his past flashes before his eyes, and so most of the movie takes place in flashbacks. On his first day as a rookie, Jack comes into the firehouse and is immediately hazed in some very humorous scenes. Since almost all of the firefighters are Catholics, they pretend to have a Catholic priest give him confession, and they nail him on his lax attitude about sex.
Soon, in his flashbacks, he meets the girl of his dreams, Linda. After a brief tryst, they are married in a beautiful church wedding. Linda, however, is deeply concerned about Jack’s firefighting career, and this concern increases as they have children. Her concerns make Jack's present situation even more poignant and emotive.
The movie develops tales of valor and poignant moments of concern on the parts of families. It shows the camaraderie of the firemen and their Catholic faith, which pulls them together at funerals, weddings, and baptisms. There is a lot of good in LADDER 49. The movie makes clear why these men are heroes. It shows the sacrifice they make for others. It helps us understand their faith and the fears of their families. And, there are a lot of references to faith and Jesus.
However, the movie would have been better served by a straight-ahead plot. The flashback devices forecast the end from the beginning, and therefore pull the punch of what could have been a very powerful ending. You can’t blame a critic for giving a spoiler when the spoiler is given at the beginning of the film.
Even so, LADDER 49 works on many levels. The acting is terrific. The suspense and fear factor at points is very intense. The dialogue is highly realistic, and the human moments are touching. Some of the cautions are the foul language and the premarital escapade between Jack and Linda, which leads to their marriage. Also, one of the firefighters spoofs homosexuality. Of course, these are part of the human condition.
On the other side, Jack gets into a fight with a firefighter who is cheating on his wife, and the movie clearly stands up for integrity, truth, justice, courage, valor, and sacrificing one's life for others. It’s refreshing to see a movie with so much faith and values.
The movie develops tales of valor and poignant moments of concern on the parts of families. It shows the camaraderie of the firemen and their Catholic faith, which pulls them together. LADDER 49 makes clear why these men are heroes and shows the sacrifices they make. It helps us understand the fears of their families. The emotional suspense is very intense. In the midst of a movie that contains a lot of references to faith and Jesus, some of the cautions are the foul language and the implied premarital escapade between Jack and Linda, which leads to their marriage. Of course, these are part of the human condition. A movie with so much faith and values is refreshing.