“You Go. We Go.”
Just watched Ron Howard’s 1991 film Backdraft. I’m certain I’ve seen this before, but it’s been long enough I don’t remember most of it. We had the VHS tape at home and it’s one of those that I always remember, mainly because of that poster up top. It was one of those images that always stuck with and is actually why Howard pulls this film off.
The Visual Effects deserved the Oscar Nominations that they got. I mean if nothing else this film looks wonderful, which I’m a sucker for those kind of movies. A movie can have shitty acting, plot, etc., but if it looks amazing I’ll like it more than I would if it looked like shit. There are a number of lovely scenes that are captured so well and beautifully, most of which are ones in which they are in the midst of action.
On the other hand the story was defiantly not anything special. Two brothers from a family of firemen who both idolize their father. Naturally they have issues with each other and have to take up the entire film to reconcile their problems, which are never really addressed. A lot of the buddy buddy crap thrown in and over done. Naturally there are some half assed romance plots that really don’t add much to the film since they are just thrown in. Personally I see potential in parts of the story, but they simply weren’t developed. That’s nothing new though since a lot of movies try to cram a bunch of shit in and then when it come sot cut the film down you end up with half assed sub-plots that don’t work. To me your better off cutting them out entirely or cutting it down even more so it does drag down the rest of the film. There a couple of really great lines and then there are some really cheesy lines. A couple of really moving scenes, again in the midst of action, and a couple of funny scenes.
Apart from the visual aspects of the film making this work, the acting was rather well for the most part. Kurt Russell did a good job in my eyes, though he wasn’t outstanding. Not entirely sure of the choice to have him play the father (for the few minutes that it happens) and the brother. If it was an attempt to link those two more than it didn’t really work. I never felt that either of the ons were necessarily like their father, though there isn’t enough of a back story to really validate that. Baldwin did a pretty good job. Not all that familiar with his work. Steven Baldwin has never been one of those guys that has ever impressed me, but Billy does a good job. Better than I expected at least. In some respects I think it might have worked better to have had an actor who was a bit more commanding on screen, as opposed to Baldwin who really looks kind of puny and weak. To an extent it works to show Russell’s dominance, but the fact that everyone else has such a strong presence kind of takes the glory away when Baldwin’s character does get a chance to shine.
Now maybe this is just because I’m a sucker for films that have a good cast and love when people who have such small parts in a film stand out more than the leads, but two actors really stole this film for me. Robert De Niro as ‘Shadow’ does an amazing job, partly do to the fact that his character is so interesting. Again this is one of those instances where there is a back story that never really gets fleshed out and could make a movie all on its own. He only appears a few times and his role in the film gets pushed aside by the conflict between the two brothers (Russell and Baldwin), but he has such an amazing presence that is defiantly more powerful that Kurt Russell’s. But wait there’s more! There is an actor in this movie who usurps De Niro, even when they share one or two scenes together. Donald Sutherland. Should I go on? I mean both actors are amazing to begin with, but Mr. Sutherland is one of those actors who has very small roles in films and is amazing in those two minutes that he appears on-screen. In Backdraft this is no exception. Playing the role of a convicted arsonists who has a relationship (not sexual) with De Niro’s arsonist investigator he over power’s De Niro. He probably only has two or three minutes of actual screen time, but he’s just so damn good! Sutherland is one of those actors who is just amazing at playing small bit parts. Scott Glenn also does an amazing job in this film in my opinion. Not large role, but he stands out in the scenes he has.
There are parts of this movie I really don’t want to see again, but then again I find myself wanting to go and edit those out, and just watch the stunning images that have been captured and watch few select performances. While I hate when people do remakes on good movies and not all that long after the original, I have to say that if the right person went in to remake this it would be amazing. I’d much rather see a film about the back story of De Niro and Sutherland’s characters. The little bit you learn in the film is interesting and it feels like that would be an interesting film.
Here’s a clip of the original trailer. Personally it highlights some of the crappy parts of the story and is a bit to misleading. Than again it does show some of those amazing visual scenes.