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BACKDRAFT 2-DISC SE
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Reviewed by: JimmyO

Directed by: Ron Howard

Starring:
Kurt Russell
William Baldwin
Robert De Niro

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
Two brothers struggle to live in their father's shadow as each one finds themselves fighting the same monster that dad did (that would be FIRE). And to make matters worse, a serial arsonist is killing off people so the youngest brother tries to find out how and why.
Is it good movie?
Post 9/11, firefighters have become the very symbol of heroism and deservedly so. They risk their lives in order to save others putting themselves into dangerous situations that most people would never do. And back in 1991, Ron Howard made Backdraft which seems even more pertinent now considering recent events. As a tribute to firemen, Backdraft works very well, showing these men as strong and brave heroes who continually fight the good fight even when people of power seem to want to take what little they have away. There is a surprisingly patriotic tone it seems, not only by the nature of the film, but with the score by Hans Zimmer, the melodramatic performances by several of the lead actors and just the nature of the film in general. On one level, it feels like Top Gun with firefighters, which is where the problems lie. Out of all the characters I really couldn't get past the idea of Hollywood stars playing these everyday folk. I didn't find myself moved by their plight, although I did enjoy Rebecca De Mornay as Kurt Russell's long suffering wife. She gave a very moving performance. And I also bought Robert De Niro as a man trying to find out who the serial arsonist killing all these poor dudes is. He gave a very credible show. The rest of the performances were not bad at all, they just seemed to step out of the realm or reality.

A backdraft is an explosion caused when a fire without oxygen, suddenly receives it from a possible outside source which makes for a few exciting sequences. But the fire also happens to be the most interesting character in the film. There is a sense of wonderment and a sense of fear every time you hear that creepy sound of wind and the dreaded blast. When the fires burn, you feel it, and it has as much of a presence as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, or the shark in JAWS. It is a powerful force without CGI, just some amazing special effects. But sadly, in the middle of this majestic force there is little else to care about. I wasn't particularly moved by any of the characters and I don't think it really had to do with the acting, it was especially grim to see Jennifer Jason Leigh who is wasted here; she is a phenomenal actress who was given nothing more to do than look pretty (which she does very well). Ron Howard seems to enjoy the melodramatic, the almost caricatured players that don't feel all that real. They seem to be idealistic people that one would like to become rather than who they really are. The script feels like a John Wayne movie with silly moments of dialogue that nobody would speak. This is a big-budget Hollywood action flick that looks great, but seems to lack realism or subtlety.
Video / Audio
Video: A very clean and beautiful presentation in Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1. All the fire sequences look pretty incredible.

Audio: This disc also delivers on sound with a fantastic Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The “whoosh” right before the backdraft sounded extra creepy.
The Extras
For a double disc, I was surprised by what wasn’t here. No commentary, no theatrical trailers but we do get a whole bunch of Deleted Scenes (43:07) on disc 1 and although interesting to look at, I can see why most of it was taken out. Aside from one or two, it would have made an already long movie even longer.

For Disc 2 we have a nice group of Featurette’s including:

Igniting the Story (14:59) discusses how Backdraft came to be and the filmmakers excitement in making a tribute of sorts to firemen. Good stuff. And we even get to take in a little more of Hans Zimmer BIG score. A little too over the top for my taste but hey…

Bringing Together the Team (19:08) discusses the casting and how it came to be. It isn’t surprising to see De Niro as a detail oriented actor who needs to be a part of everything. Whatever it takes, the dude’s got talent.

The Explosive Stunts (14:41) is one of those “how’d they do that” type of features which is actually pretty interesting and gives us more FIRE.

Creating the Villain: The Fire (12:50)… I don’t know, is it me or could you just mix this and the explosive stunt feature and go into a little more detail? Still a good watch but I don’t know if I would have separated the two.

Real Life Firemen, Real Life Stories (8:57) is a round table discussion with a few dudes from Station 73 in Santa Clarita, California. I frankly would have rather seen a movie about these guys than the Ron Howard Opus that we got, but oh well. This is a great interview and they are much more interesting than all the characters in the movie, in my humble opinion.
Last Call
Backdraft is one helluva film to look at. Some amazing fire sequences that fare well even by today’s standards. But sadly, the fire itself is by far the most interesting character in the film, which is sad because there are quite a few talented people here. Yet Ron Howard has a tendency to go for the melodramatic moments with the over-the-top score and the treading on silly script. It is still a great reminder of why you should always pull over when you see a fire truck coming down the road.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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