Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Ron Howard directs an all-star cast in this exciting action-thriller that shows you the mystery, drama and devastation of fire as you've never seen it before! Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as two feuding siblings c...  more »


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Movie Reviews

A great film!!
J. Elmquist | 03/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you like to watch a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat with great special effects and wonderful, true to life character interactions, I definitely recommend Ron Howard's Backdraft. The interactions among all the actors come across as very natural, as if all the actors where actually who they were playing, making the characters more believable. Not only are the characters believable, but the special effects that continue through out the movie, whether big or small, pull everything together to make Backdraft one of the best films I have ever seen. The basis of this movie is that people around the Chicago area are dying by way of these backdrafts. It is up to the arson investigator, played by Robert DeNiro to find out what is going on. The other characters involved are two brothers who's father died serving the same fire department they work for. Kurt Russell plays the oldest brother, Lieutenant Stephen 'Bull' McCaffrey ,who has been with the force for many years, and William Baldwin plays the younger brother, Brian McCaffrey who just joined the force. Throughout the movie the two brothers battle conflict with each other relating to sibling rivalry among other things, and Brian ends up leaving the force to join the arson investigating office.. Other characters involved around the two brothers are Rebecca De Mornay, who plays Helen McCaffrey, the ex-wife of Kurt Russell. Her part is not that large, but the importance of her character in regards to Kurt Russell is definitely noticeable, and the friendship that still exists between them is easy to relate to. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays Jennifer Vaitkus, the ex-girlfriend of William Baldwin, has a bit of a larger role. Not only does she appear from William Baldwin's past, but she now holds the position of Assistant to the Alderman, to whom many contacts will be made. Donald Sutherland, who plays Ronald Bartel, a former arsonist who understands the criminal psychology of pyromaniacs, gives insight to the arson investigation team, by sharing some of his own stories of arson from his past. Scott Glenn plays the role as a fellow firefighter "Axe" Adcox. His character is that of a supporting brotherly figure, to which is not quite appreciated. Finally there is J.T. Walsh, who gives an excellent supporting performance as the sleazy Alderman Swayczak. He is responsible for making changes within the Chicago fire department that do not benefit the department all that well. All of the actors work great together, and seem natural among one another. These special effects, by far, make the movie mesmerizing. Not only do you see the fire as it threatens the characters and destroys everything in its path, but you get to see an insight of how fire really moves, how it breaths, and how it can dance and hide with the wink of the eye. One particular scene, where a building is on fire and the two brothers must go in after a little boy, really give you the feeling of being up close and personal with the fire around them.. You feel the fear of being hurt along the anticipation of trying to save the life of the little boy right along side the characters. The combination of great characters and believable situations, make this story memorable. The story, written by Gregory Widen, is not only full of action, but in some situations, it shows how life really is.. Whether it is the friction felt by siblings trying to live up to false expectations of one another, or doing the right thing when it comes to your job and your personal friendships, nothing in this story appears impossible. Over all a great combination of characters, actors and producer that make one heck of a good film."
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Mr. Roger Atkin | 09/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is actually a 2-disc "Anniversary" special edition.

Digitally Remastered Picture & Sound
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
English DD5.1 Surround
English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles
Ron Howard Introduction

Over 40 Minutes of Deleted Scenes
"Igniting the Story" -Director Ron Howard, Academy Award®-winning producer Brian Grazer and others discuss the evolution of the film from script to screen
"Bringing Together The Team" -From the casting room to firefighter clinics see how director Ron Howard brought together a talented team of actors and real-life firefighters
"The Explosive Stunts" -Filmmakers reveal the state-of-the-art technology and heroic stunts that created the explosive action of the film
"Creating the Villain: The Fire" -See how an overwhelmingly talented team of special effects creators and stunt coordinators worked together to bring the fire to life
"Real-Life Fireman, Real-Life Stories" -Get an insider's perspective on what it takes to be a firefighter in this round-table discussion with the crew of Station 73, Santa Clarit"
Fire has it's own character
J. Elmquist | Somewhere else... | 04/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"`It lives, it breathes and it hates'. This is the description made by Robert DeNiro's character in Backdraft, stating the volatile nature of something we all fear, but rely on; Fire.

Backdraft is a different movie, filled with characters who are flawed and angry with one another. There are many messages that go along with this movie. I'm not sure where Ron Howard was going with the relationships of the characters, maybe no where and that's ok. Why try so hard to make the relationships go somewhere in such a short amount of time when we can clearly tell that the issues between them are a result of a lifetime of hardships and disagreements. These are not the kind of disputes that get resolved in a short period of time, if ever. You can take away what you want from the movie in that respect.

The movie centers around Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin), who returns home to Chicago after years of failed business ventures to make sure he doesn't follow the family line of becoming a Firefighter. After giving in and completing the Fire Academy, he is placed in his brother's company, one of the toughest. His brother Steven (Kurt Russell) is still a bit annoyed with him for not deciding to become a fireman right off the bat (Chicago firefighters have a stout tradition for family continuance and stubborn old fashioned fire fighting that has no room for progressive tactics). He seems determined to make sure Brian either stays with it and becomes as good as he is, or quits. Brian takes it personally at every turn. Sibling rivalry ensues.

Subplots abound as we learn that fire stations are being closed for political purposes and Brian finds he has feelings for childhood friend (Jennifer Jason Leigh). DeNiro plays Donald Rimgale, the Fire Investigator that is looking into the Backdraft murders (a phenomenon that causes a fire in a closed room to subside after using all the oxygen, but explodes when O2 is reintroduced from the open door), high level politicians and businessman are being killed with this method and it becomes an MO. DeNiro is solid in his role as the Arson investigator, spouting lines about loving fire and understanding it's nature. Kurt Russell is good as he swaggers through his role, a character who attacks fire, knowing for some reason that he won't ever be killed by it. Baldwin seems lost as usual, but the character himself is somewhat lost trying to decide what to do in his personal struggle. Leigh doesn't seem interested in her role but manages to get through and Rebecca De Mornay plays the small role she has as Steven's estranged wife with great world-weary realism. Scott Glenn, mercilessly put in a shaved down role, is good as well. The best character though is Donald Sutherland, playing Ronald Bartel, a pyro-psycho who is locked up in a mental institution. He comes up for release occasionally and Rimgale goes in and repeatedly proves just how insane he still is, no matter what he tricks the doctors and release board into thinking. Sutherland is obviously having the most fun with his part. His character is called upon to help find out who is behind the Backdraft murders.

The biggest character of the film though is the fire, and it is astounding. Even though the movie is over 11 years old, it holds up today. With a combination of real fire exaggerated with computer affects in some spots, the visual result is frightening and actually looks alive in some scenes. All in all, the movie is good, although there are a lot of elements squeezed in to make it somewhat epic, and even though it doesn't quite reach that status, it is a good all around movie with great action, emotion and special effects.
Firehouse Fairy Tale...
trebe | 12/09/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Ron Howard's Backdraft, is a film that centers on the lives of two brothers. Their father, a Chicago firefighter, was killed on the job when they were young boys. As adults, the McCaffreys, are both members of fire department. The elder brother Stephen (Kurt Russell), nicknamed "Bull", is a veteran firefighter, who prefers taking on a fire head on. His younger brother Brian (William Baldwin), is a recent graduate into the department, and though he seeks to serve out of his brother's shadow, he finds himself assigned to Bull's stationhouse. While Bull is something of a legend within the department, all is not perfect in his life, as estranged from his wife (Rebecca DeMornay), he lives on his father's old dry docked boat.The family drama is set against a subplot, involving a series of suspicious fires that are being investigated by the fire department's arson specialist, Lt. Rimgale (Robert De Niro). A local Alderman (J.T. Walsh) responsible for budget cutbacks to the department, is pressing Rimgale for answers. After another clash with his big brother, Brian transfers to Rimgale's arson investigation unit.Once this occurs, the story expands to become more than just a sibling rivalry, as the focus shifts to the investigation of arson and other matters. De Niro, Baldwin, Walsh and Donald Sutherland, who plays a crazed imprisoned arsonist, then assume more primary roles. The physics of a backdraft are quite fascinating, and the results spectacular and explosive. The film does feature some fine special effects and stunts, related to the fire fighting scenes. The identity of the arsonist, and the reasons for the crimes, may not be very credible, but the film proceeds towards a spectacular and emotional finish. In the end, it all comes back to the two brothers, and the special bond between firefighters.The film does have its flaws. Baldwin (28) and Russell (40) are a bit of a mismatch as brothers, with more of an age difference as adults, than it appeared when they were children. The incident where Brian mistakenly rescues a mannequin is simply ridiculous. And the attempts to attribute to fire almost metaphysical qualities, may be something only firemen can truly appreciate. While the film's focus does bounce around a bit between drama, adventure and suspense, overall the presentation is still worth seeing. The DVD however offers very little in the way of extras."