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Backdraft is a 1991 American drama thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by Gregory Widen. The film stars Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay, Donald Sutherland, Robert De Niro, Jason Gedrick and J. T. Walsh. It is about Chicago firefighters on the trail of a serial arsonist.

Backdraft
Backdraft poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Produced by
Written byGregory Widen
Starring
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyMikael Salomon
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24) (United States)
Running time
137 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40 million[1]
Box office$152.4 million

The film grossed $77.9 million domestically and $74.5 million in foreign markets, for a total gross of $152.4 million.[2][3] The film received three Oscar nominations.

PlotEdit

Two firefighters of Engine 17 of the Chicago Fire Department are brothers. Lt. Stephen "Bull" McCaffrey, the elder, is experienced, while Brian has labored under his brother's shadow his entire life. Brian returns to firefighting after a number of other careers falter, though Stephen has doubts that Brian is fit to be a firefighter. In 1971, Brian witnessed the death of their firefighting father, Captain Dennis McCaffrey, while accompanying him on a call. The longest-serving of all the men at Engine 17, John "Axe" Adcox, served under the McCaffreys' father, and was like an uncle to the boys when their father died. Adcox grows concerned about Stephen's unorthodox methods and disregard for safety procedures, as does Stephen's wife Helen, separating from Stephen to protect herself and their son Sean.

Fire Department Captain Donald "Shadow" Rimgale, a dedicated arson investigator and veteran firefighter, is called in because a number of recent explosive fires resemble those set by pyromaniac Ronald Bartel, who has been imprisoned for years. Brian is reassigned as his assistant after a falling out with Stephen. Rimgale manipulates Ronald's obsession with fire to ensure his annual parole application is rejected. It is revealed during an investigation that Chicago City Council alderman Swayzak, who has supported fire department budget cuts, was paid off by contractors to shut down firehouses so they could be converted into community centers, with the contractors receiving contracts for the construction. Brian also rekindles a relationship with Jennifer Vaitkus, an aide to Swayzak.

When Engine 17 answers a call in a high-rise, Stephen urges them to move in quickly, despite Adcox's advice to wait for back-up. Brian's friend and fellow trainee, Tim Krizminski, opens a door, creating a backdraft. His face is burned beyond recognition, and he barely survives. Adcox and Brian both blame Stephen for what happened. Rimgale and Brian go to Swayzak's home to confront him after learning of his connection to the three backdraft victims Alan Seagrave, Donald Cosgrove and Jeffery Holcomb, interrupting a masked man about to set the place on fire. The latter attacks them with a flashlight but is burned on his shoulder by an electrical socket. Rimgale saves Brian and Swayzak from the house but is injured in an explosion. In his hospital bed, Rimgale tells Brian to visit Ronald again, who helps Brian realize that only a firefighter would be so careful as to not let backdraft fires rage out of control.

Brian suspects Stephen but spots a burn in the shape of an electrical socket on Adcox's back, revealing his suspicions to his brother just before an alarm. When Brian realizes Adcox has heard their exchange, he jumps aboard Truck 46 after borrowing some turnout gear. Stephen confronts Adcox about the backdrafts during a multiple-alarm fire at a chemical plant. Adcox admits that he set the fires to kill Swayzak's associates, because Swayzak was benefiting from the deaths of firefighters and closing down firehouses. When an explosion destroys the catwalk they are on, Stephen grabs Adcox's hand while hanging on to the remains of the catwalk. Stephen refuses Adcox's advice to let go of him. Stephen loses his grip on the catwalk, and Adcox is killed when they fall. Stephen dies with Brian by his side on the way to the hospital, his final request being that Brian not reveal that Adcox was the perpetrator so as not to hurt the fire department's reputation.

After Stephen and Adcox's funeral, Brian and Rimgale, with the help of the police, interrupt Swayzak at a press conference. Rimgale questions Swayzak on a fake manpower study that led to the deaths of several firemen, including Stephen and Adcox. They also state that Swayzak engineered the downsizing of the Chicago Fire Department, destroying Swayzak's mayoral ambitions. Brian continues as a firefighter despite the loss of his father and brother. The film ends as Brian helps a rookie firefighter with his turnout gear as the department responds to a call.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

According to the article in Entertainment Weekly, rubber cement from Petronio Shoe Products was used to create some of the fire effects. Industrial Light & Magic created many of the visual effects.[4]

RealismEdit

Fire fighting professionals have noted that most real structure fires differ from what is shown in the movie by having smoke conditions that obscure vision inside the building almost completely.

The pictures of firefighters searching in movies like Backdraft do not really show what it is like to search in a fire. Firefighters are shown advancing through fully involved structure fires while not wearing the complete complement of protective gear (Nomex hoods, radios, PASS devices). Most scenes display firefighting without the use of SCBA [ self contained breathing apparatus ]. Realism in our case would make a very bad movie because the fact is that in almost every fire the smoke conditions completely obscure all vision.[5]

"The movie ... came pretty close at times, but it also suffered from the very same, all too common shortcomings that any visual presentation was bound to encounter (...) Smoke, steam and other miscellaneous factors usually combine to obscure almost everything that is taking place".[6]

Furthermore, fire investigation professionals have dismissed the investigative methods shown in the movie as unscientific, in particular the portrayal of fire as a living entity.[7]

Theme park attractionEdit

ReleaseEdit

Home mediaEdit

The film has been released on many formats with it first on VHS and then DVD. In 2006 a 2-disc DVD Anniversary Edition was issued.[8] On January 4, 2011 Universal Pictures released a Blu-ray ‘Anniversary Edition’ with many of the features ported from the previous DVD release including four featurettes, 43-minutes of deleted scenes, a 3-minute Ron Howard introduction and trailers.[9] It was released for the first time as a two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray package on May 4, 2019.[10]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

The film grossed $77,868,585 in the US (ranking 14th in box-office for 1991), and $74,500,000 in foreign markets.[11][12]

Critical responseEdit

Praise for Backdraft was directed to the special effects and performances, while much criticism was reserved for the story.[13][14][15][16] The film currently holds a 74% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "It's not particularly deep, but Backdraft is a strong action movie with exceptional special effects." Film critics Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune [17] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a positive review.[18]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[19]

AwardsEdit

The film received three Academy Award nominations (Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects and Best Sound - Gary Summers, Randy Thom, Gary Rydstrom and Glenn Williams).[20]

SequelEdit

In March 2018, it was announced that Universal has tapped Spanish director Gonzalo López-Gallego to direct the sequel with William Baldwin set to reprise his role.[21] The film, titled Backdraft 2, was released on for a direct-to-video format on May 14, 2019.[22]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ http://catalog.afi.com/Film/58762-BACKDRAFT
  2. ^ "Backdraft (1991)". Box Office Mojo. 1991-08-06. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  3. ^ "Fire/Firefighter Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  4. ^ Henrikson, Christopher (1991-06-14). "Burning Down the House". EW.com. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  5. ^ Ron Garner (2004). Fire Chief. iUniverse. p. 62. ISBN 9780595769896. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  6. ^ Jerry E. Lindsay: "A Firefighter's Story", pp. 52-53.
  7. ^ "Fire Investigations and "The Scientific Method - Change is Good!"". HGExperts.com. Archived from the original on 2015-04-12. Retrieved 2015-04-12.
  8. ^ Backdraft: Anniversary Edition (1991) | Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 29, 2006)
  9. ^ Backdraft Blu-ray | United States | Anniversary Edition | Universal Studios | 1991 | 137 min | Rated R | Jan 04, 2011
  10. ^ Backdraft 4K Blu-ray | United States | 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD Universal Studios | 1991 | 137 min | Rated R | May 07, 2019
  11. ^ Fox, David J. (1991-05-29). "'Backdraft' Burns 'Hawk's' Wings at the Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  12. ^ "Backdraft (1991)". Box Office Mojo. 1991-08-06. Retrieved 2015-04-12.
  13. ^ "Backdraft Reviews". Metacritic.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (1991-05-24). "Review/Film; 'Backdraft,' Firefighting Spectacular". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  15. ^ "Backdraft". Variety. 1990-12-31. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  16. ^ "Backdraft". Entertainment Weekly. 1991-05-31. Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  17. ^ "'Backdraft' A Spectacle Graced By Fine Acting". Gene Siskel. 1991-05-24. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  18. ^ "Backdraft (1991)". Roger Ebert. 1991-05-24. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  19. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  20. ^ "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-22.
  21. ^ "'Backdraft' sequel set to begin filming".
  22. ^ Prange, Stephanie (12 March 2019). "'Backdraft 2' to Fire Up on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital May 14 From Universal". Media Play News. JCH Media Inc. Retrieved 18 May 2019.

External linksEdit