Monday, 22 December 2014


“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour. - Aristotle

We have had some bushfires already here in Victoria, so the fire season has officially started. This is always an important issue every Summer in Australia, and as the season progresses we dread the news of highly destructive bushfires breaking out and causing loss of bushland, homes or even worse, lives. I think with gratitude of the dedicated people that fight fires, which in the countryside are often volunteers of the Country FireAuthority. They do much to educate the public, prevent fires through clearing and back-burning, and if there are fires, doing their utmost to save properties and lives.

So for Movie Monday a film that I have watched and has fires and firefighting as a theme. The bravery and self-sacrifice of firefighters is something that we seem to forget or push to the back of our minds until a time of crisis. However, these people can be called upon to put their lives at risk on a daily basis in order to save others’ lives, property and uphold social order during times where most of us would crack under immense physical and psychological strain.

The film is Ron Howard’s 1991 Backdraft. This could easily have been a film where overacting, over-the-top special effects and heavy-handed directing were the way that things could have turned out. However, despite what the detractors say, the film is satisfying, the performances are good and the directing is excellent. The plot revolves around sibling rivalry and unresolved psychological problems from the past, but overall, I feel, it is a tribute to firemen and a way of saying thank you to these men on whom we rely so much in times of catastrophe and when emergencies threaten our very lives.

The film immerses us in the lives of two firefighters, the brothers McCafferty, Stephen and Brian. The younger (and now rookie fireman) Brian, watched his firefighter father die in a fire when a child. Stephen, the older is in the force and in the same station as Brian. The two brothers have had a hard time seeing eye to eye and the conflict between them is inflamed by working together. A series of suspicious blazes begin to occur and each has been set in order to kill someone. Brian starts to investigate the suspected arson and this seems to cause more friction between himself and his brother.

Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell, William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland give good performances and as it is to be suspected, the female roles in the film are rather underplayed and of secondary importance. The special effects are effective and keep one on the edge of the seat. A subplot involving political corruption is an essential part of the movie and underpins the action at several key points. The script could have been tighter, but still the movie works. This is certainly a film that is worth seeing.

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