Tuesday, April 5, 2016

We Didn't Start the Fire

Backdraft 
Director: Ron Howard 
Cast: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca DeMornay, Scott Glenn, J.T. Walsh
Released: May 24, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Visual Effects (lost to Terminator 2


Backdraft is probably the most famous movie that features firefighters. Well, it's the only one I can think of besides Ladder 49.  I have seen it before, but it's probably been ten or fifteen years. It's about two brothers who followed in their father's footsteps as a firefighter, but they don't get along. They are Stephen (Kurt Russell) and younger brother, Brian (William Baldwin). I knew a Baldwin was in this, but for the longest time I thought it was Stephen Baldwin (there is a Stephen Baldwin, right?) because I kept hearing the name "Stephen" in the movie and just associated that name with the Baldwin in the movie, but then I looked it up to double check and it's William. Seriously, I can't tell those Baldwins apart if you lined them up...the only one I really know is Alec. Fun fact: Brad Pitt was up for the role of Brian.

The movie starts out "twenty" years ago in 1971 when Stephen and Brian are kids and their dad is about to be a hero and put out another fire. He manages to save a little girl from the fire, but something terrible happens when he goes back in and there's an explosion and he dies. This all happens in front of little Brian's eyes who was there when it happened. I was so confused because the dad was played by Russell and he died within the first five minutes of the movie. I'm thinking, Uh, why did they bill Kurt Russell first when he's only in the movie for five minutes? But he also plays Stephen as a grown up so he is in the movie for more than five minutes. But I just thought that was weird. I'm sure there are examples where the same actor played a parent in the past, then played one of the grown up children in the future.

Stephen has no fear and will take on a fire head on and doesn't always listen to rules and protocol. One of the most famous images from this movie is the one I posted above when he goes into a burning building before they've got the hose ready. He knows there's a child in there and he knows there's no time for the hose to be set up. He is hailed a hero, but often chided for his reckless behavior. Stephen is separated from his wife, Helen (Rebecca De Mornay) who he still has feelings for, but she is fearful of his life. They have a young son.

Brian was out of the firefighting game for awhile, but has come back to it. On his first big fire, Stephen tells him to stay at his side, but during the fire, Brian sees a human and ends up leaving his brother's side to rescue a life. Only it turns out the life he "saved" was a mannequin. There were a few in the building that was on fire, so it must have been an old department store. When he comes out with the human form wrapped in a blanket, the photographers take photos, thinking it's a real person. His picture is in the paper and he is hailed as a hero even though he knows the whole thing is a fraud.

Once grown up and firefighters in Chicago, they must find out who is behind a series of malicious fires being set and killing people. DeNiro plays the veteran firefighter and arson investigator who is on the case. I didn't really like this plot line of the story. We already have a movie about firefighters; why do we need to add a murder mystery to it?

It must be a requisite for movies with firefighters in them to play the song "Heat Wave." Because that song was also played in Frequency where Dennis Quaid played a firefighter.

The fire scenes were very impressive. I have strong respect for firefighters who go into burning buildings to save people. I could never do that! I was a little confused that Stephen could go into burning building without a mask...seemed kind of dangerous, but maybe they wanted the audience to be able to see his face. Apparently, one of the cameramen wore a flame-retardant suit and went into the fire to actually shoot from a firefighter's POV. The film is a little overheated (pun intended!) with its plot, but overall has a nostalgic feel to it...even though I never saw it in theaters, I do remember it when was released. 

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