Ladder 49

2004

Ladder 49

Critics Consensus

Instead of humanizing the firemen, the movie idolizes them, and thus renders them into cardboard characters.

41%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 164

81%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 343,171
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Ladder 49 Photos

Movie Info

Baltimore firefighter Jack Morrison, making the transition from inexperienced rookie to seasoned veteran, struggles to cope with a risky, demanding job that often shortchanges his wife and kids. He relies on the support of his mentor and captain, Mike Kennedy and his second family--found in the brotherly bond between the men of the firehouse. But when Jack becomes trapped in the worst blaze of his career, his life and the things he holds important--family, dignity, courage--come into focus. As his fellow firemen of Ladder 49 do all they can to rescue him, Jack's life hangs in the balance.

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Cast

Joaquin Phoenix
as Jack Morrison
John Travolta
as Capt. Mike Kennedy
Jacinda Barrett
as Linda Morrison
Robert Patrick
as Lenny Richter
Morris Chestnut
as Tommy Drake
Billy Burke
as Dennis Gauquin
Balthazar Getty
as Ray Gauquin
Tim Guinee
as Tony Corrigan
Kevin Chapman
as Frank McKinney
Jay Hernandez
as Keith Perez
Kevin Daniels
as Don Miller
Brooke Hamlin
as Katie Morrison
Robert Logan Lewis
as Robert Reilly
Spencer Berglund
as Nicky Morrison
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News & Interviews for Ladder 49

Critic Reviews for Ladder 49

All Critics (164) | Top Critics (36)

  • A serviceable testament to the firemen who would bravely risk their lives to protect the safety of others, etc., etc.

    Oct 6, 2004
  • Ladder 49 might have been an oversized Hollywood dazzler. Phoenix keeps it firmly and modestly on a human scale.

    Oct 1, 2004
  • Offers audiences a real rarity in theaters these days: a good, honest cry.

    Oct 1, 2004 | Full Review…
  • Even the best scenes feel canned, secondhand, packaged. We've seen this all before.

    Oct 1, 2004 | Full Review…
  • The story of Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix), a guy so emotionally uncomplicated and unquestioningly dedicated to rescuing people he might have been raised by Saint Bernards.

    Oct 1, 2004 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • An action drama/weepie that's so busy telling us that its characters are heroes, it forgets that they should be people first.

    Oct 1, 2004 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Ladder 49

  • Apr 26, 2012
    Man, with the still inferior, though also very cheesy "It's All About Love", and now this, Joaquin Phoenix seemed to have been falling into the shameful grounds of cheese around the mid-2000s. Man, remember when Joaquin Phoenix was cool? Yeah, me neither, because, as awesome as his acting and name are, he was never really that much of a hardcore man's man. I mean, even in "Gladiator", where he was playing a corrupt, evil king that took his throne through the brutal, guiltless killing of his own father, he still came back one of the wimpiest corrupt kings ever portrayed in modern film, and now, he's playing a fireman, a real man's profession, and yet, they somehow managed to make that come off as cheesy, which would explain why there is some certain dilution of consequence in the air here, if the reason isn't the fact that Joaquin Phoenix was never in any real danger, because if he got burned up, then he would just be reborn from the ashes. Phoenix mythology jokes, anyone? Well, eitherway, whether it be because I thought that Phoenix would just be reborn from the ashes in which he died or simply because the film glorifies our leads a little too much, there's some undeniable tone-down in consequencial feel here. Of course, while it's not as consistent as it could have been, there is some undeniable tension here and there, though not quite enough to fully drown out the cheese and many other flaws that pull you right back into of the fire, so to speak. Really, the most surprising survival in this film has to be the fire, itself, because it's hard to believe that the flames would sustain form in an atmosphere this borderline airless, with Jay Russell's storytelling falling short on oomph, while almost entirely falling off the radar, when it comes to comfortable story flow, as the film will drop points of exposition, characterization and general transition with such sloppy sudden abruptness, while focusing way too hard and long on what story segment it does fall upon, that the film is left tonally inconsistent, leaving story substance to land a mighty blow, while other amateur mistakes lay down additional damage. While a story of this type are rarely this sloppily told, on the whole, this is the same thing that you've seen over and over again, and hardly with a new coat of paint, as the film falls into convention, after convention, after convention, and that includes conventional missteps in films of this type. The dialogue in this film is hit-or-miss, but when it does miss, it's way off, plagued by too much machismo, or rather, ma-cheese-mo, if not simple cheesiness that's anything but manly, to the point of being borderline, if not certainly embarassing, nor even mildly original, for that matter. You're going to think that I'm kidding, but this film has everything from a brief usage of, "Okay, who's the wise guy?" to two - yes, "two" - usages of Danny Glover's certainly trademark catchphrase from "Lethal Weapon", which I'm not going to repeat, partially because no one should have to say it again, and in this film, they paused for a second, as though they were dramatically presenting it. Still, the cheesiness and genericism in the dialogue is matched, if not outdone by William Ross's score, or rather, his iTunes download cart, because there's no way he came up with these pieces, as they are so absurdly familiar and generic, with the only evidence to support the idea that they were done by a different person being the fact that I don't remember these score pieces being this overinspired to the point of being overbearingly overambitious and cheesy. Not even the score makes it out of this film without going tainted by too much glorification, and with the script and storytelling being just as generic and overbearingly glorified to the point of being saccharine, the final product's human value and uniqueness goes all but lost in the flames. However, while it doesn't make it out with plenty of burns and scratches, the film has enough fine aspects to pull it out of the heat just enough for it to have some degree of human touch, or, at the very least, plenty of charm. As overbearing as the film's ambitions are, it's intentions remain noble, and there is some definate charm within those ambitions, and while they do help in tainting the film's humanity, they still liven things up enough to hold your attention. Something else that taints the film with its manipulation, but to the point of breaking you has to be Will Ross' iTunes download cart, which features overbearing selections, yet ones that do hit the occasional golden track that really fits to create some tension in the handful of dangerous scenarios, as well as even emotion during the more emotional moments, especially at the admittedly pretty powerful ending that, well, in all honesty, had me choking up a bit. Still, what really pumps this film with enough charm, emotion and overall life is the one thing that's anything but amateur: the acting. Sure, there are few moments where our cast of sharp talents really get to shine, yet they really deliver with human layers and chemistry that may go betrayed by Jay Russell's spotty resonance and Lewis Colick's overbearing screenplay, yet still have enough power in them to compel the audience and even make effective some the bigger potentially fall-flat moments of resonance, from charming development of comradery to the powerful, darker and more emotional moments, that it really carries through, while growing stronger and stronger as the film progresses and gives our strong leads with more of the sharp material that they deserve and deliver upon pretty excellently. The cast, plagued by inhuman glorification, could have, if not decidedly would have destroyed the humanity and uniqueness in the cast, and yet, our performers, with much ever-intensifying skill, transcend the dehumanization and create distinctive, yet equally compelling human leads, particularly Joaquin Phoenix as the audience's engaging avatar and generally compelling lead, especially when Phoenix really delivers on emotion and transformativeness as the Jack Morrison character finds himself unraveling from the spirited and ambitious charisma that he started out as, to a broken, tragically over experienced man that had seen and faced more than anyone should have to. Sure, while the leads give the film a lot of humanity, most every department is working against them, so they hardly come close to fully redeeming the film and making it genuinely good. However, our performers are easily one of - nay - the single grandest reason why this film is as enjoyable as it is, and while potential does go squandered by the orchestrators offscreen, it's hard not be drawn to the screen by the consistently strong talents onscreen. When the flames die down, some disappointment emerges, kept alive by painfully conventional and cheesy writing, made all the cheesier by an overbearing and generic score, as well as Jay Russell's glorified and occasionally uneven direction, yet what powers enjoyment past the disappointment are golden moments of effectiveness - particularly at that praisably worth-waiting-for strong latter part and final, amazing ending - and consistent charm, but most of all, the cast's electric charm, chemistry and, at times, emotion that gives them the humanity that could have been lost in the fires of sappiness, as well as "Ladder 49" the strength to stand as a generally entertaining and ultimately quite enjoyable study on the highs, lows and all around life of heroes. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jul 04, 2011
    this is a journey of a film that wears its heart on its sleeve. phoenix adds depth to an otherwise thankless role. I enjoyed this film from start to finish and thought the brotherhood was very accurate. these guys risks there life everyday its believable they would bond and treat each other like an addition to the family
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Feb 03, 2011
    Ladder 49. Nice effects, but too melodramatic. While it had sparks (1) of emotional depth, as a whole I felt it was too vague and gut-wrentching enough to be a pure homage to fire-fighting. "But Joaquin Phoenix..." Shut up! I know, he's amazing. Sorry that got heated (2). Joaquin Phoenix does give an powerful performance, but that's not enough to keep Ladder 49 away from the flames (3). First off, the music. My only hypothesis is that they got hold of a "Hollywood Music for Beginners" demo tape and the best of CMT. Ladder 49's playlist brings up words you never want to hear when it comes to film score: -Overbearing -Boring -Poppy -Unemotional -Unmemorable -Really, extremely, gratuitously, off subject (enough with the country tunes, it's a FIRE flick) In short, I wasn't a big fan of the music. The acting was great, and even the by-the-book screenwriting couldn't keep the principle and secondary characters from burning bright (4). The action sequences were nicely done, but it was almost impossible to actually enter the world of a firefighter... a very "third-person" film. In the end Ladder 49 was an explosion (5) of action sequences and uneventful personal story lines that left a little movie-sized hole in my heart. Why 40%? Because it was anything but heart-warming (6); its drastic truth to form left the movie in a heap of rubble (7), with no more Joaquin Phoenix to carry us out. Extra: Did you enjoy any of my fire puns. I got up to seven, so not too shabby. Feel free to throw in a couple of your own, and my apologies if they were annoying.... but hey, they probably couldn't be as annoying as this movie's music was. I'm just saying.
    Luke T Super Reviewer
  • Jul 16, 2010
    Quite possibly the worst Joaquin Phoenix film. Ladder 49 is a crappy drama film with overused cliches and we've already seen it all before. A bad Fireman film this is just a pointless excuse for a film. I view this film as a Backdraft ripoff, it borrows from many plot elements from that film. Ladder 49 never really does anything very dramatic as it follows closely every dramatic cliche in the book, in other words; we've seen it all before. A total waste of time and definitely not a good film. A film with bad script, bad acting and bad plot, this is a film to miss.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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