Ladder 49 (2004)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 23-May-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Jay Russell (Director) And Bud Smith (Editor)
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Everyday Heroes
Deleted Scenes
Music Video-"Shine Your Light" Performed By Robbie Robertson
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 110:22
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jay Russell
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
John Travolta
Jacinda Barrett
Robert Patrick
Morris Chestnut
Billy Burke
Balthazar Getty
Tim Guinee
Kevin Chapman
Jay Hernandez
Kevin Daniels
Steve Maye
Robert Lewis
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Robbie Robertson
William Ross


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Dutch
French Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Icelandic Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
French Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ladder 49 is a post 9/11 teary tribute to brave firemen and their sacrifices. While well-intentioned, Ladder 49 ends up being an overly earnest, sappy, sentimental and soft soap opera, boyishly idolising firemen. Indeed, the film often struggles to be more than a multi-million dollar recruitment video.

    Sadly, Ladder 49's potential is held back by a thoroughly inoffensive and routine story written by Lewis Colic, populated with squeaky-clean, cardboard-cut-out characters, and made worse by clichéd direction by Jay Russell. The film isn't bad, it's just bland. The treacle-soaked story ends up being a collection of fatigued and familiar contrivances.

    Set in Baltimore, a young fireman, Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) charges into a large burning building to save a man’s life. The building begins to collapse, and and Jack falls several stories into a dark and smoky cavernous pit. As he lies dying, Ladder 49 tells Jack's story through a series of flashbacks, which includes his rookie fireman days, and his romance and marriage to his quietly fearful but supportive and loyal wife, Linda (Aussie Jacinda Barrett).

   Meanwhile, outside, Jack's station chief and mentor (John Travolta) leads Jack's buddies in an impossible campaign to rescue him.

    Where Ladder 49 does stand out is in its fire scenes. Fortunately, Russell opted for real fires in real buildings, and limited use of CGI and sound stages, and as such propane, mapgas, and the visual effects team have created a series of realistic fire scenes.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, the transfer is very good.

    The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    Although at times very grainy, the image is reasonably sharp throughout. Some scenes do suffer with excessive grain from the source material, such as the cityscape at 48:41, or the smoky shot at 84:34. Fortunately, as there are many dark scenes, the black level and shadow detail are very good, which can be evidenced for example in the night shot of the fire at 21:34.

    There is extensive use of coloured lens filters and themed lighting. The colour palette and saturation seen in the transfer is good, with accurate skin tones.

    There are many scenes with flickering fires and choking smoke filling the screen, items which test any disc's compression, but fortunately there are no problems with MPEG artefacts.

    Film-to-video artefacts are present in occasional telecine wobble, which is very slight, and most noticeable in the static cityscape shots. There is some very slight aliasing, evidenced in a slight shimmer on a few objects such as on the US flag at the funeral at 49:04.

    A few tiny film artefacts appear throughout, but they were never really noticeable or distracting.

    English, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, French Audio Commentary, Swedish Audio Commentary, Norwegian Audio Commentary, Danish Audio Commentary, Finnish Audio Commentary, Icelandic Audio Commentary, Dutch Audio Commentary, and French Titling subtitles are present on this DVD. The English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 70:58.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Overall, the audio is also very good.

    There are three audio options for the feature on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Despite the extensive use of looped dialogue, the dialogue quality and audio sync are fine on the English Dolby Digital audio track. Obviously, in some of the chaotic firefighting scenes, some of the dialogue is muffled or lost, but I'm sure this was intended.

    The score is credited to William Ross, and it is a strange mixture of penny whistle heavy Irish acoustic and country/blue grass music. Along the way there are also a collection of maudlin, sappy songs, such as those contributed by Robbie Robertson.

    While there is a high level of surround presence and activity, this isn't a surround sound demo disc. That said, there is an effective presence in the rears to help carry the score, and for ambience, such as the background sounds in the restaurant at 27:20. There are also a few panning-between-speaker moments, such as the collapsing building at 20:19 or the fire trucks swerving through the traffic at 17:06. The subwoofer is used well throughout, and the LFE activity was noticeable, such as during the explosions  at 5:39 and 9:28, or the rescue helicopter at 70:07.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few extras, and unless stated otherwise, all are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Menu

    An animated menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital Stereo audio.

Audio Commentary-Jay Russell (Director) And Bud Smith (Editor)

    Russell's aim was to provide an insight into the making and conceiving of this film, and between them, they do a good job. This is a fairly thorough screen-specific commentary, which at times almost becomes defensive in regard to the overly sentimental approach they took in making the film. Russell also continually stresses the authenticity of the film.

Featurette-Making Of (21:17)

    This is a relatively short making of, mainly comprised of talking heads and some behind-the-scenes shots. It is divided into three sections:

Featurette-Everyday Heroes (13:42)

    A quick look at the life of firemen, through interviews with some firemen and their friends/family.

Deleted Scenes

    Running for just over 13 minutes, there are five deleted scenes presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced.

Music Video-"Shine Your Light" Performed By Robbie Robertson (4:21)

    Also presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Ladder 49's Region 1 release is to have the same features as ours, except for the addition of a THX Optimizer, but personally, I would favour the local release for its its superior PAL image.

Summary

    Ladder 49 is a sappy tearjerker and an ode to 9/11 selfless American heroism and back-slapping. Rent or buy Ron Howard’s Backdraft (1991) instead.

    The video quality is grainy, but very good.

    The audio quality is also very good.

    There are a few extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
crap. - sean.