It's the 15th anniversary of Backdraft, and Universal is celebrating with an all new two-disc collector's edition. First off, when is the last time you watched this movie? I have always loved Backdraft, but because it's a bit over 2 hours, it's not on my commonly watched list. So I haven't seen it in about 10 years. Wow, this movie is still amazing. We forgot about the stellar cast. We have Kurt Russel, Billy Baldwin, Rober DeNiro, Rebecca DeMornay, Jennifer Jason Leigh (from Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and Donald Sutherland. Speaking of which, I think his role as Ronald the Arsonist is top notch. I forgot how delicious it was to watch him play really, really creepy. I this this is Sutherland at his best.
The story is solid, it follows the rift and growth of two brothers, the sons of a fallen firefighter, as they attempt to rescue the states of their current lives. At the same time, there's a mysterious arson investigation that stinks of corruption, and hard-to-find chemicals.
The story is great, much better than other story-driven films of late, however I found myself really loving the special effects. This is before the affordable hayday of computer effects, so the fire and stunts are all real. I had to watch this movie on my DLP projector with 100" wide (that's horizontal, not diagonal) and it was mind blowing. The fire and many many explosions are all pulled off by trained experts that know how to wrangle fire. It's still "living and breathing" fire, but it's "performing" for the cameras like an expertly trained animal. The amazing thing, to Ron Howard's credit, is that if this movie were to come out today, it wouldn't have the story or cast this one does, and the effects would be all computer generated.
This is an amazing movie, and it really stands up in today's DVD library. The only thing that really dates it, is the music selection. The haunting score is terrific, but their "rock 'n roll" selections for training montages and such is a little cringe worthy. You'll forget all that when you can literally feel your eyebrows being singed off ten minutes later.
A little surprise, Jack McGee from FX's Rescue Me had a small role. Good Lord he's lost weight since then. But I have to say that Rescue Me is the best show on television. I thought the last three seasons have trumped The Sopranos last couple of offerings. Seriously, either Netflix or buy from Amazon.com, but you need to pick up Rescue Me Season 1 right now if you're not aware of what you're missing.
The Special Features were nice as well. I loved watching how everything came together. There are both new and 15 year old features on here. There are explanations behind the casting, special effects, and even the musical score. Honestly, the best special feature in the history of Special Features is the unintentionally hilarious commentary track on Conan the Barbarian with director John Milius and Arnold Schwarzenegger. So there's nothing that amazing on here, but it's great to get some additional info. There's also almost a half hour of deleted scenes. They don't really add to the story, but I swear that was SNL's Tim Meadows in the graduation scene.
Every now and then, an incredible movie remains an incredible movie after being neglected for a bit. If you haven't watched Backdraft in a long while, now is the time to return.