Ladder 49

October 1st, 2004


Ladder 49

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Linda (Jacinda Barrett, right) and Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix, center left) share a tender moment with their children Katie (Brooke Hamlin, left) and Nicky (Spencer Berglund, center right) on Christmas Eve in Baltimore.After pulling a prank on a rookie firefighter, Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix, center) jokes with his comrades at the firehouse, including (Left to right) Ray Gauquin (Balthazar Getty), Captain Kennedy (John Travolta,), Don Miller (Kevin Daniels), Tommy Drake (Morris Chestnut), Frank McKinney (Kevin Chapman), Ed Reilly (Robert Lewis), Lenny Richter (Robert Patrick), and Keith Perez (Jay Hernandez).Jacinda Barrett at event of Ladder 49Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta, right) mobilizes his team to rescue their trapped comrade.Still of Joaquin Phoenix in Ladder 49Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix, right) proves his bravery as he risks his life to save a trapped man.

Under the watchful eye of his mentor Captain Mike Kennedy, probationary firefighter Jack Morrison matures into a seasoned veteran at a Baltimore fire station...

Release Year: 2004

Rating: 6.4/10 (29,569 voted)

Critic's Score: 47/100

Director: Jay Russell

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett

Under the watchful eye of his mentor Captain Mike Kennedy, probationary firefighter Jack Morrison matures into a seasoned veteran at a Baltimore fire station. Jack has reached a crossroads, however, as the sacrifices he's made have put him in harm's way innumerable times and significantly impacted his relationship with his wife and kids. Responding to the worst blaze in his career, he becomes trapped inside a 20-story building. And as he reflects on his life, now Assistant Chief Kennedy frantically coordinates the effort to save him.

Joaquin Phoenix - Jack Morrison
John Travolta - Captain Mike Kennedy
Jacinda Barrett - Linda Morrison
Robert Patrick - Lenny Richter
Morris Chestnut - Tommy Drake
Billy Burke - Dennis Gauquin
Balthazar Getty - Ray Gauquin
Tim Guinee - Tony Corrigan
Kevin Chapman - Frank Mckinny
Jay Hernandez - Keith Perez
Kevin Daniels - Don Miller
Steve Maye - Pete Lamb
Robert Lewis - Ed Reilly (as Robert Logan Lewis)
Brooke Hamlin - Katie Morrison
Spencer Berglund - Nicky Morrison

Taglines: Their greatest challenge lies in rescuing one of their own


Official Website: TFM [France] |

Release Date: 1 October 2004

Filming Locations: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $22,088,204 (USA) (3 October 2004) (3260 Screens)

Gross: $102,332,848 (Worldwide) (30 June 2005)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Costume designer Renee Kalfus designed rubber air tanks as a substitute for the real 30 pound tanks for scenes where the firefighters did not need to use the real tanks.

Continuity: During the bar scene on Jack and Linda's first date, the position of the lime slice and strawberry on Linda's glass changes on both the first and second drink several times throughout the scene.

Jack Morrison: Tell Linda I love her... That I've loved her from the second I saw her.

User Review

Better than average drama that shows firefighters as real people

Rating: 7/10

It was thirteen years ago that Ron Howard's ode to firefighters hit theaters with 1991's Backdraft. This was before Howard went on to direct such popular fare as Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. This was before Kurt Russell figured that Captain Ron might a good idea, and most importantly, this was before September 11, 2001.

To say that our impression of firefighters changed that day sounds, well, awkward. Firefighters have always been held in high regard. They run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out. They put their lives on the line to save others. It is a courage that most of us would like to think we have, but few of us are ever put into a position to test.

On September 11, we watched in awe as the buildings collapsed and 340 firefighters were taken from us prematurely. Although the loss of lives that day included thousands of innocents, we warmed to our heroes and it brought their efforts and incredible bravado back to our attention. Immediately after the tragic events, it was not uncommon to see people wave or salute firefighters in the most remote regions of our country. On CNN we began to hear stories of the personal lives of these men. Their support. Their sacrifices.

It is not surprising therefore that our newly energized interest was translated into big screen emotional powerhouses. In 2002, Anthony LaPaglia and Sigourney Weaver played a firefighter and a writer to prepare eulogies for those fallen in the attacks in The Guys. Now, in 2004, red-hot Joaquin Pheonix and John Travolta have teamed up to bring us the highly effective Ladder 49.

Ladder 49 starts with a fire in a large Baltimore factory where multiple firemen have charged to look for survivors and extinguish the posing threat.

Lead by seasoned veteran Jack Morrison (Pheonix), the firemen are able to rescue a helpless employee before the floor gives way trapping Morrison within the building inferno. As Jack lays there helpless awaiting the rescue from his peers, we are sent back in time via the Hollywood standard flashback to understand what brought Jack to his present peril. We see Jack as he enters the fire hall for the first time and meets Captain Mike Kennedy (John Travolta) who takes the new probie under his wing and over the years develops a bond that includes being there when Jack gets married, has kids and steps into the shoes of a search and rescue firefighter who perishes when a roof gives way during a routine house fire. We learn how the firemen bond, how they drink together rather heavily and regularly and how when they lose one of their own, the emotional impact on them and their families

Don't get me wrong, all the above drama plays out while buildings burn, people are rescued from skyscrapers and people are saved from what would be sheer death if not for the charging brave souls of the local Fire Department. There is enough action to keep the younger audiences looking for the quick rush occupied while enough firemen running around in tight t-shirts to keep the women equally transfixed.

But it is the story that sets this film apart from any other firefighting film in memory. We get a good glimpse into the lives of the men and portrait of a young man learning the ropes and growing within the culture and environment that can be sometimes loose and playful only to become serious and deadly at the sound of a bell. Director Jay Russell (My Dog Skip) packs an emotional punch that doesn't try and suck it out of the audience with an unexpected end. Instead, we see Jack being trapped in the opening sequence and we can pretty much see the writing on the wall before the tragic events play out before our eyes.

For all the focus played to the rising star Pheonix, it is the supporting cast that really stands out within the confines of the 105 minute running time. Travolta seems comfortable in playing a supporting role and is effective and powerful in his portrayal as the Captain of an efficiently run firehouse. Also standing above the average fare is Jacinda Barrett who plays Jacks wife. Yet another beautiful Australian actress, Barrett has the largest load in the film as the anchor that questions why her husband and father of her children would risk his lives for others ignoring his own well being. She both shows anxiety and support in her understanding of his passion and it is her strength that gives the film its heart.

To compare Ladder 49 to Backdraft would be unfair. Backdraft did little to bolster our impression of the firefighting community while Ladder 49 shows them for what they deserve to be recognized as – heroes who at the sound of an alarm will put themselves in harms way to help others.


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