run time: 137 mins
rated: R
considered: Action, Crime, Drama
starring: Kurt Russel, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Scott Glenn, Rebecca De Mornay, Jennifer Jason Leigh, J.T. Walsh

movie summary: Two Chicago firefighter brothers who don’t get along have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose. (

my thoughts: Backdraft is the story about Stephen (Russell) and Brian McCaffrey (Baldwin), two brothers who are at different stages of their careers in the Chicago Fire Department. Their dad Dennis was a daring and heroic firefighter who died in a fire back in the 1970’s, which left Stephen responsible for both his brother and himself. Fast forward about 15 years, the brothers have grown apart and don’t like each other. Brian has finally attended and passed fire school, while Stephen is a Lieutenant at Engine 17, one of the toughest departments in the city. During station assignments, Brian requested not to be at Engine 17, but Stephen pulled some strings and got his baby brother assigned to his firehouse so he can watch over him. The brothers renew their feud and dislike for each other as Brian is under a lot of pressure to live up to his brother’s daring ways.

The guys at Engine 17 are battling a bunch of “backdraft” fires in their part of the city, Donald Rimgale (Robert DeNiro) is the lead investigator who is hot on the trail of an arsonist. During a school fire, Stephen and Brian run into the building  to save a kid. Brian thinks it’s dangerous to be in there with no back up or hose, but Stephen runs into a burning classroom anyways. Brian falls due to an explosion in the room, and thinks Stephen is dead. After a few moments, Stephen emerges with the kid, leaving Brian to realize he will never be like his brother. He quits the department to take a job with Rimgale investigating fires.

Together the pair get closer and closer to the arsonist with each new fire and dead body. They bring clues and evidence to serial arsonist Ronald Bartel (Donald Sutherland) to help find any missed clues. Ronald opens Brian’s eyes to the fact it may actually be a firefighter who is starting all the fires. Brian recalls seeing a bunch of toxic chemicals on Stephen’s boat, so he sets out to see if his brother is involved.

Engine 17 gets called to a massive chemical warehouse fire, where there are lots of firefighters battling the blaze. Brian grabs his gear and goes to find Stephen. As the fire rages beneath them, Stephen and his crew are on the roof. Brian walks into a confrontation between Stephen and John “Axe” Adcox (Scott Glenn) about the chemicals and why Axe gave them to him. Brian now has to decide who to believe as the roof starts to give away and it’s every man for themselves to get off. Inside the inferno the brothers find Axe, who is prepared for one final show down to protect the truth. Stephen has to make the ultimate decision of live or death as the flames close in the trio.

I could not estimate how many times in my life I have watched Backdraft, because I know every scene and every line. It was my dream to be a firefighter, so I thought this was the greatest movie ever back in 1991 when I was nine years old. Compared to movies made today in 2013, there was no CGI fire or green screens for this movie, the action was real and intense. Yes, it was filmed  with the help of trick photography and most of the fire scenes are very unrealistic for real firefighters, but the fire seems like it’s exploding right into your lap. The storyline will keeps you interested as each character has to deal with personal demons and everyone is out looking for the arsonist. Hans Zimmer’s amazing musical score ties in perfectly with the movie and action scenes.

my star rating: 10 out 10