Ladder 49

Metascore
47

Mixed or average reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 32
  2. Negative: 6 out of 32
Watch On
  1. 88
    Because it is attentive to these human elements, Ladder 49 draws from the action scenes instead of depending on them. Phoenix, Travolta, Barrett and the others are given characters with dimension, so that what happens depends on their decisions, not on the plot.
  2. Aside from the awesome flames and pyrotechnic scenes of crisis, danger, and part-of-the-job bravery, the movie is a quiet salute; it does its job.
  3. In its best moments, the film works as both an exciting and formula-breaking action-adventure and as an enjoyably sappy tearjerker.
  4. There's a lot of flashy acting going, notably by Travolta, who has not been more engaging on-screen in a decade, and by newcomer Barrett, a willowy Aussie who, as a woman living with the specter of death, gives the film's most complete performance.
  5. Celebrates heroes without turning them into saints.
  6. 70
    Offers audiences a real rarity in theaters these days: a good, honest cry.
  7. 63
    One could argue that such an approach isn't all bad - after all, it allows us to know and like the characters - but there are times when Ladder 49 gets a little too cute.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    63
    Predictable, square, and honorable all at once.
  9. The film is less of a drama than a tribute -- an ode, even -- to the spirit and tenacity of firefighters. Its makers hardly bother to explore the lives or motives behind their actions.
  10. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    60
    It plays, rather, like an old-fashioned, by-the-numbers drama that solidly connects with most of its well-worn cliches.
  11. 60
    This resolutely old-fashioned movie is less a drama of the streets than a kind of recruiting film.
  12. A little humanity can go a long way to make up for a movie's shortcomings, and there's more than a little in Ladder 49, a surprisingly stirring celebration of heroic firefighters.
  13. 60
    Might have been an oversized Hollywood dazzler. Phoenix keeps it firmly and modestly on a human scale.
  14. 50
    Phoenix, who initially seemed the kind of actor who was too cool, too angry, to appear in studio pap such as this, is a magnetic presence, despite the numbing pathos surrounding him, but isn't that what we used to say about Travolta?
  15. Reviewed by: Allison Benedikt
    50
    Instead of cashing in on barely healed wounds, Ladder 49 could have taken a different cue from pornography and gone the way of "Boogie Nights," a fascinating, difficult and honest glimpse into another storied profession.
  16. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    50
    There has been a need for a big-screen feature about firefighter heroics since Sept. 11, but as drama, Ladder 49 falls short of even the second rung.
  17. Reviewed by: Carina Chocano
    50
    As a loving tribute to the courage and sacrifice of firefighters, it's first-class. As a movie, it's a TV show.
  18. Fails as drama but succeeds as a "When bad things happen to good firemen" procedural. It's sensitivity training for civilians.
  19. Reviewed by: Angel Cohn
    50
    Swings wildly between heartstring-tugging melodrama, testosterone-fueled action and buddy comedy.
  20. Reviewed by: M. E. Russell
    50
    Moves you with a couple of its grittier dramatic choices, but overall the film feels cheap, tugging a little too hard on the almost instinctual pride you feel when seeing a hero in fireman's outfit.
  21. Plays like a war movie made in a time of war: too careful, too programmatic.
  22. Reviewed by: Ben Kenigsberg
    50
    Not as snort-worthy as "Backdraft," Ladder 49 is a serviceable testament to the firemen who would bravely risk their lives to protect the safety of others.
  23. As a heartwarming tribute to the courage of firefighters, Ladder 49 delivers.
  24. 40
    In a shrill attempt to overcompensate for the film's shortcomings, William Ross' hyperbolic score does the audience's work for it, cheering heroism, guffawing during lighthearted moments, and getting all misty-eyed during the tender and tragic scenes.
  25. 40
    This drama about Baltimore firefighters makes a serious effort to honor the sacrifices of professional rescue workers, but blasts of hokum keep threatening to collapse the building.
  26. The firefighting equivalent of an Army recruitment commercial.
  27. 30
    The men in this movie are little more than beer ad cliches going through Ford tough motions as though trapped in a bad country music video. There's not a realistic moment or character or performance in the picture.
  28. 25
    For all its noble intentions, the movie is really a work of crass exploitation -- an obvious and manipulative grab to cash in on the post-9/11 hero worship of the firefighting profession.
  29. 25
    Tedious and obnoxiously manipulative.
  30. Reviewed by: Leah McLaren
    25
    I like firemen just as much as the next red-blooded gal (they're big, strong, real-life heroes, what's not to like?) but something about Ladder 49, for all its slow-motion shots of burly guys in T-shirts sliding down poles and running into burning buildings with gushing hoses, made me seriously want to gag.
  31. What makes this nonsense more galling than usual is that while Ladder 49 might have started out as a heartfelt attempt to honor those in the line of literal fire, it weighs in as an attempt to exploit their post-Sept. 11 symbolism.
User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 64 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 40
  2. Negative: 1 out of 40
  1. Oct 16, 2010
    10
    Although hardly publicised and fairly predictable, it is a film which you really get into. I'd never heard of it when I began watching it; butAlthough hardly publicised and fairly predictable, it is a film which you really get into. I'd never heard of it when I began watching it; but thoroughly enjoyable. But sad. Full Review »
  2. PatC.
    May 3, 2006
    6
    Shamelessly hokey Hollywood Formula 49 piece. An homage to firefighters without the annoyance of allowing the viewer to experience an Shamelessly hokey Hollywood Formula 49 piece. An homage to firefighters without the annoyance of allowing the viewer to experience an original thought. The content rings true, but the presentation does not. Despite an obtuse presentation its point is made. The fact that the movie is about those who charge into what others are fleeing is not negated by the techniques and motives of the filmmaker. Full Review »
  3. DaveF
    Sep 8, 2005
    6
    Predictable and shallow as it goes through the motions of the Hollywood tearjerker. That said, it's still a lot of fun to watch--and Predictable and shallow as it goes through the motions of the Hollywood tearjerker. That said, it's still a lot of fun to watch--and might even knock some sense into the college kid who likes to pull his dorm's fire alarm. Full Review »