PicturePresented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Ladder 49 is blessed with an excellent video transfer. Colours are bold and vivid throughout, with the reds and oranges of the fires simply piercing the screen, as well as the broad palette on show, all of which give great clarity to the entire film, without so much as a hint of blemishes or disfiguration. The picture in general is pristine, with a brilliant crispness and precision during the entire film, with the images on screen perfectly realising the work of Director of Photography James Carter and art director Gregory Bolton, who together capture the essence of fire fighting superbly. In addition, edge enhancements are very minimal, with only a few glimpses of some work being carried out, as well as very small amounts of grain present. As good as presentation as you would expect from a recent release.
SoundAs with the video transfer, the audio side of the DVD is excellent, presented here in Dolby Digital 5.1. The clarity and clarity of the sound is exceptional, perfectly capturing the life of a fire-fighter. Fires roar, engines howl, buildings collapse, explosions galore, you name it, everything that you would expect from a fire-fighting fire is brilliant recreated on the DVD, thrusting the audience head on into the danger surrounding the job. Dialogue too is well presented, with great attention to detail and distinctness, which perfectly brings the voices of our male heroes to the screen. The only disappointment of the audio transfer is the irritating and overly sentimental score from William Ross, as well as an awful song from Robbie Robertson called Shine your Light, for which the music video can be found on the DVD.
ExtrasFirst up on the features from is Commentary from director Jay Russell and editor Bud Smith. A bit of a mixed-bag this one, with the majority of the commentary being used up by Russell, who with the usual array of stories, anecdotes and explanation of his direction, does give some good insights into the production of the film and its reception on release. Having said that, he does become tiresome towards the latter stages of the commentary, and Bud Smith never really gets time to give his own insights. One for fans only.
“The Making Of Ladder 49” featurette includes three mini-featurettes, which both go on location with the shoot, goes on location with the actors as they attend a fire academy to prepare for becoming on screen fire-fighters, as well as an Anatomy of A Scene feature which goes over the warehouse scene. On the whole, the documentary is worth a watch, with the On Location segment the standout, as it is quite interesting to see the actors put through their paces. Much more interesting is the "Why We Do It Real Stories From Real Fire Fighters" feature, a frank and entertaining feature which features real fire-fighters talking about there experiences and showing them in action. Thoroughly engrossing, this is what Ladder 49 should have been, a honest and adoring depiction of the lives of fire-fighters and who they put their lives on the line every single day.
Also in the DVD package are some Deleted Scenes, which like most deleted scenes do nothing to enhance or change any major plot points, and the aforementioned "Shine Your Light" music video by Robbie Robertson, which the less said about the better.
VerdictDespite a technically excellent DVD package, and a solid but unspectacular array of extra features, it's very hard to recommend this film. As a movie, Ladder 49 seems to be confused as to what it wants to be. Apart from its obvious intentions of being a loving ode to those fire-fighters we honour, is it a love story, or another buddy film with enough action and male bonding to keep both men and women happy? In the end, it buckles under its own bewilderment, and never becomes anything but a second-rate version of all the above, despite the best efforts of the superb Joaquin Phoenix. If you're a fan of Phoenix or John Travolta then it's worth a rental, or are looking for a rainy day film to pas the time, its worth a rental. For everyone else, use caution.
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