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A tribute to courage
Oct 25, 2004 12:05 AM 2133 Views
(Updated Oct 25, 2004 12:25 AM)





I have no idea how many of you on MS actually go out and see movies on your own. Just you, all alone, sitting in the darkness. It is quite a depressing experience. However I had to undergo this very depression when I saw Ladder 49 this afternoon at Eros. I completely blame my friends and family for this situation.

They refused to show any interest in the film and thought I was stupid for thinking it might be good. Well, boo to you I say! I stuck with the principle that anything with Joaquin Phoenix in it is worth a watch and strode confidently with a single ticket into the recesses of the dark theatre.

I was not disappointed. Actually Phoenix was not as good as he usually is, but it was the movie that took me by surprise. It is actually a pretty good movie. Not great, not monumental, but definitely good. Let me explain:

Just like we blame Bollywood for having masala movies with the same formula repeated for ages, well Hollywood too has its own recipe. These are movies with similar storylines, similar protagonists who have similar life changing experiences happening to them. They undergo similar marital problems or as an alternative job problems or financial problems. They discover in a very similar manner how family and love is important and everyone lives happily ever after. These are not bad movies mind you (at least not all of them), but they are what you may call formula movies.

Halfway through Ladder 49, I had started to believe that it was a formula movie. I could almost see through the clichés and the twists of plot. Thankfully the movie proved me wrong. It isn?t a complicated film or a film with a sudden twist or anything, what it is, is a tribute to a firefighter?s life. It?s as simple as that. It?s a story about how firefighter?s lead unusual lives and are subjected to stresses and pressures we can never dream of. The story incorporates how they make stronger bonds among themselves and become like brothers. The story speaks of courage.

The narrative style, though not original is highly commendable. The movie starts off by showing Phoenix operate a rescue on a high rise in flames and how he gets trapped in the building after saving a man?s life. You are taken through the inferno with expert camera handling and can feel the urgency and action. While showing Phoenix lying prone under after a huge fall, the narrative then moves into flash back and to the beginning of his career as a firefighter. This style of showing a few flashback scenes and then coming back to the present rescue operation is kept up throughout the movie, with some measure of finesse. As a result, the pace of the movie doesn?t really flag and the audience is kept interested.

The camera work is above average. There is nothing really innovative or interesting (except some flashes of brilliance, esp. in a fire where Phoenix saves a young girl), but it definitely is at par with the good stuff. The editing is good and the effects are brilliant. The soundtrack is amazing. Seriously, the music is beautifully places and the background songs are brilliantly apt to the scenes.

The movie is not great. The main reason behind this is the acting. Performances in this film are generally below par. John Travolta looks at sea and not at his expressive best. As the movies gets along however, he finds his legs, but it?s a bit too late. Phoenix carries the movie on his able shoulders. But he still does not live up to the reputation he has built for himself after Gladiator, Signs and The Village. The lady playing Phoenix?s wife cannot act too well and is irritating. The others just about pass muster. Nobody comes up with a commanding performance.

The only reason this movie is worth its ticket money is the story. It is simple and eloquent. The movie gathers momentum as it goes on and the second half restores your faith in it. By the end, the movie definitely does something to you. It tugs at some heart strings somewhere. It is the kind of movie that lets you out contemplating it and that is always a great achievement for a movie. Though the movie is not really about the firefighters of the 9/11 disaster, it is a celebration of the lives of all firefighters. It is a tribute to their courage and a fitting one.

All in all, though this is not ?dare-not-miss? movie, it will definitely leave you with no regrets for the money spent. Worth a one time watch.

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