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Film Review - Backdraft
One thing you can count on in a Ron Howard film, you're going to have a good time. Backdraft is the story of brothers who grew up in a fire-fighting family. One brother witnessed his father's death fighting a fire and has never quite been the same since.
Kurt Russell plays Stephen, the older brother, who decides to have his younger brother Brian (William Baldwin) assigned to his station. Stephen overworks his brother, who is a probationary candidate (or "Probie"). Brian becomes very resentful as this mistreatment continues. What he doesn't see is his older brother's caring for him: the worry that the younger brother will get hurt without this extra training.
This story of brothers is played against the backdrop of a string of very suspicious fires that have been killing people. These "backdraft" fires do not take out the building; they wait until some poor guy opens the door, then the sudden rush of air causes an explosion. Robert De Niro plays Donald Rimgale, an investigator who has his share of burns from his fire-fighting days. (There is a cast member named Donald Rimgale listed in the credits. I do not know if this is supposed to be his story, or if Howard just borrowed the name.) Donald, Brian and Stephen discover who has been setting these deadly fires.
Backdraft works on many different levels as a movie. You have the relationship third, the whodunit third, and the special-effects third. The special effects in this case are the masterful use of fire on the film set. This was obviously a very dangerous movie to make with fire that was not some computer-generated effect. This was very real.
In the end, the audience takes home something they didn't expect: a real respect for the men and women who fight fire for a living. This is difficult and dangerous work. Firefighters save a lot of lives every year and Backdraft sends you home thinking, "I need to check the battery in the smoke detector." It's film like this that puts Ron Howard in my list of the five best directors in Hollywood.
Directed by Ron Howard
Released in 1991
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewed by Mongo