User Score
8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 64 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 51 out of 64
  2. Negative: 3 out of 64
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  1. AurielR.
    Nov 9, 2004
    10
    The most powerful and emotional movie I have ever seen!!!
  2. JenniferW.
    Oct 2, 2004
    10
    A 10 because I grew up as the daughter of a very dedicated Baltimore City Fire Fighter. So dedicated, he sacrificed his marriage and several other relationships in his life for the Fire Department. My father was also the real-life Captain at Engine 33, just like Travolta's character, and it was one of the highlights of his entire career. During his reign as Captain at 33, he was also A 10 because I grew up as the daughter of a very dedicated Baltimore City Fire Fighter. So dedicated, he sacrificed his marriage and several other relationships in his life for the Fire Department. My father was also the real-life Captain at Engine 33, just like Travolta's character, and it was one of the highlights of his entire career. During his reign as Captain at 33, he was also battling cancer. As depicted in the movie, my father and the band of brothers at the firehouse battled it all together. Support from home and work helped him through it, especially the station's humor and antics which helped keep his spirits up. That's why I believe the stories of practical jokes, relationships, weddings, births, injuries, deaths, retirements, etc. portrayed in Ladder 49 were so real that only someone from within can know how real it is. Not only was the entire concept of Fire Fighting portayed the way it should have been, the portrayal of the antics inside the walls of Engine 33's station was right on as well. When I had the opportunity to meet these actors (Travolta, Phoenix, Chapman) and also heard Jay Russell and John Travolta speak about their expectations for this movie...the only thing they were striving for is they wanted to "Get It Right". They did and they did it by going through the same fire school the Baltimore City Fire Fighters go through, they set real fires and the actors really put them out, they spent months interactiing with the fireman and their families, the community embraced the actors and the actors embraced us. I've read several critic's reviews and I have to tell you, from where I'm standing, the actors "Got It Right" and Ladder 49, be it a blockbuster hit or not, portrayed it right.The average viewer may have walked away from this movie with mixed emotions and criticism, but the everyday fire fighter and their families, ,who have sat and watched this film together (like the Baltimore Premier I attended), walked away from it with not only tears in their eyes but a feeling that the acotrs, producers, and writers "Got It Right" cause they truly did. Maybe it's not a blockbuster because there's nothing "Hollywood" about what my dad and his brothers do everyday. It's the biggest sacrifice of time, family, and life. It's horror, love, excitement, passion, compassion, bravery, and pain all rolled into one. If this movie was based on any other "Front Line" occupation (i.e, Military, Police, etc.) and portrayed the same as these actors portrayed Fire Fighters, those other "front liners" and their families would feel the way my family and I felt..."They Got It Right" - Can't say it enough! Expand
  3. RobertH.
    Oct 4, 2004
    10
    I read Jennifer's review and went to see the movie with my girlfriend. It gave us a whole new prospective to the brave men that risk life, limb and family protecting us around the clock. If you haven't seen this film you truly should because it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the "Bravest" and an insight into the comraderie and brotherhood where each fire fighter I read Jennifer's review and went to see the movie with my girlfriend. It gave us a whole new prospective to the brave men that risk life, limb and family protecting us around the clock. If you haven't seen this film you truly should because it will give you a much deeper appreciation for the "Bravest" and an insight into the comraderie and brotherhood where each fire fighter depends on his brother for his very survival. Without question although this film in not Hollywood style, the in depth look at the men and their families make this a must watch. Jennifer you are correct in that they indeed "Got It Right." I salute all you brave men and thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you must make to perform your job. Thank you. Expand
  4. margaretb.
    Jan 7, 2005
    10
    Great film, all the emotions from laughter to sadness felt through this film. I cant understand some of the ignorant reviews. Travolta, Phoenix and Barrett were all great, they didn't overplay there roles. They portrayals of the characters were believable.
  5. KevinY.
    Apr 5, 2005
    10
    One of the best I've ever seen. Shows it how it really is. Great story line.
  6. Jennifer
    Oct 11, 2004
    10
    First rate. Kudo's to all who made this insightful film about our bravest. I thought it was an accurate portrayal of the men and women who live the life of a fireman.
  7. CameronS.
    Oct 2, 2004
    9
    Excellent movie!!!! Loved it! Very well acted!!!!!
  8. David
    Oct 6, 2004
    10
    Any film that move can move one to tears is well acted and much deserving of such a high score. Trovolta played down his role and as a result came across as a superior actor in this very important drama. Without the friendship and the practical jokes our firefighters would lose their sanity. It takes a special breed to do what they do and for this they should be commended. An excellent film.
  9. SusanM
    Feb 9, 2005
    9
    I really liked this movie, it had a great story and the characters were so easy to relate to, the acting was awesome and I can't wait to see it again! Honestly, one of my faves of 2004!
  10. AshleighH.
    Mar 6, 2005
    10
    Top movie, one of the saddest ive seen. Good story line.
  11. LarryL.
    Mar 8, 2005
    9
    The portrayal of stress and the role of human emotion was accurate and moving. No matter how salty a group of firefighters are, they are human beings who feel deeply when they lose a person they tried to save, or one of their own. Thank you to all of you men and women who honorably serve your neighbor by putting your necks on the line.
  12. DanH.
    Mar 9, 2005
    10
    A perfect mix of firefighting action with a great storyline. You really feel for the characters. Excellent movie overall.
  13. PamelaM.
    Jul 19, 2005
    10
    Excellent Film.
  14. MarkB.
    Oct 12, 2004
    7
    Is screenwriter Lewis Colick deliberately TRYING to see how many cliches he can stuff into a single script? The first audible line of dialogue we hear in this tribute to a Baltimore fire station is "I'm getting too old fot this s---" (which is repeated), and it doesn't end there. (The only tried-and-true warhorse that Colick omits is one of my personal favorites, "There are no Is screenwriter Lewis Colick deliberately TRYING to see how many cliches he can stuff into a single script? The first audible line of dialogue we hear in this tribute to a Baltimore fire station is "I'm getting too old fot this s---" (which is repeated), and it doesn't end there. (The only tried-and-true warhorse that Colick omits is one of my personal favorites, "There are no athiests in foxholes", and even here he finds a suitable equivalent.) This doesn't much help a movie whose material and approach wasn't new or fresh when James Cagney and Pat O'Brien were doing stuff like this in 1934. What helps this movie to be as watchable as it is anyway is Joaquin Phoenix, whose total openheartedness and lack of guile as an actor (qualities that served him well in Return to Paradise, Signs, The Village and many others; his sly villain Commodus in Gladiator was an atypical role for him) completely sells his role as a firefighter who, trapped in a burning building and dependent on other firemen to get him out, may or may not be facing the last moments of his life. Jacinta Barrett, as his wife, is a truly lovely actress in every sense of the word, and even John Travolta, who has squandered much of his Pulp Fiction bounce giving horrible, clenched-jaw performances in such equally horrible movies as The General's Daughter and The Punisher, is effectively used as a kinder and gentler John Wayne; in fact, this is his best performance in years. Director Jay Russell, who also gave us the unexpectedly affecting family movie My Dog Skip, doesn't have a postmodern bone in his body; his total belief in his material and unabashed emotional commitment to it match Phoenix's. I'm from Baltimore so I really enjoyed revisiting the locations and commend the set designer and art director for giving the interiors such an accurate look and feel; speaking of which, the firehouse itself is so cool that it made me want to be a firefighter myself just to have the privilege of living there! It's easy to see why other posters on this site liked this even better than I did; when my own friends and coworkers advise me to quit picking films apart and just enjoy them, this is exactly the type of movie they're talking about. Overlook the flaws in the script and approach the material the way that Phoenix and Russell did, and you'll be entertained and moved in grand style. Just don't worry too much about who's on shift the nights our heroes are getting wasted down at Looney's Pub! Expand
  15. MikeJ
    Dec 24, 2004
    10
    As a police officer, I work closely with firefighters all the time and must say this movie is truly one of the best I have ever seen! May God bless my brothers and sisters in blue and in the firehouse and keep us all safe!
  16. Fantasy
    Oct 4, 2004
    10
    This is for Jennifer W whose passionate review of this film is so engulfing that it makes watching this movie a more enriching experience. Jennifer our heartfelt thanks to your father and to your family for the sacrifice each of you endured in protecting all of us. You should be very proud.
  17. [Anonymous]
    Oct 6, 2004
    10
    As a fire fighter I thought the movie was great I don't agree with the comments about trying to cash in on post 9/11, Than again I would expect movie critics to understand the life of a fire fighter Travolta said they had to ride with fire fighters to calls, hang around the station, etc. to learn what went on in the lives of fire fighters. The real critics should be the ones the As a fire fighter I thought the movie was great I don't agree with the comments about trying to cash in on post 9/11, Than again I would expect movie critics to understand the life of a fire fighter Travolta said they had to ride with fire fighters to calls, hang around the station, etc. to learn what went on in the lives of fire fighters. The real critics should be the ones the movie was made about and for, the fire fighters!!!!! Expand
  18. DanG.
    Jan 1, 2005
    10
    I think this movie is just amazing!
  19. Saintev
    Mar 18, 2005
    8
    Once again, just look at the disparity of the score between critics and real people. This was a very well done movie and well worth a rental and 2 hours of your life.
  20. Joe
    Mar 27, 2005
    8
    I found the movie moving and entertaining. I would recommend the movie.
  21. RickyH.
    Mar 9, 2005
    10
    This was the best firefighter movie I have ever seen. It blows "Backdraft" away. Great story line. Great effects, looks like some of the fires I've been in.
  22. bjmiller
    May 16, 2005
    7
    Entertaining, and at times sad. Fun to watch the rapport and camaraderie the men develop as they work together.
  23. MichaelO.
    Aug 14, 2005
    8
    Probably the most realistic film about how firefighter's live. Granted, there may be a lot of downtime, but this flick shows us who the real heroes in the world are. A moving tribute with plent of action, but have your hanky ready.
  24. JonM.
    Nov 13, 2004
    10
    As a professional Firefighter I expected to see a bunch of Hollywood BS, but I left the theatre in tears. Our brotherhood is strong and the movie relayed that point well. May God bless and keep my brothers and sisters safe while we walk where the devil dances.
  25. johnw
    Oct 17, 2004
    10
    This movie makes me proud to be in the fire department!
  26. SMartin
    Mar 13, 2005
    10
    Loved it.
  27. KennyW.
    Mar 17, 2005
    10
    Simply one of the best films I've seen in years!
  28. SteveK.
    Apr 25, 2005
    10
    This is an excellent movie. Many of the critical reviews of this movie are extremely cynical. If you are a cynic, then steer clear of this movie. People who think it is a firefighter's recruitment video are missing the point. This movie is about bravery and about sacrifice, universal themes that show that sometimes one's job is more than just a paycheck but can really truly be This is an excellent movie. Many of the critical reviews of this movie are extremely cynical. If you are a cynic, then steer clear of this movie. People who think it is a firefighter's recruitment video are missing the point. This movie is about bravery and about sacrifice, universal themes that show that sometimes one's job is more than just a paycheck but can really truly be about giving life for others, even at the cost of your own. Watch this movie! It's incredible. Expand
  29. 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; but thoroughly enjoyable. But sad.
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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.