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My Review of the Movie Backdraft That Was Assigned for No Reason and That My Professor Will Likely Use as a Drink Coaster

By Traytrayblogblogs @traytraytweets

My Review of the Movie Backdraft that was Assigned for No Reason and that My Professor Will Likely Use as a Drink Coaster

I am not going to name who my professor is or what the specific class is but I am in the last week of a 5-week summer course required for my major (which is Health Science with dual concentrations in School and Community Health Education).  In the class…

  1. Female students have been cat-called by male students who have made it into college by god-knows-what means
  2. I once showed up to class 20 minutes late and we hadn’t even started yet
  3. 95% of the class time has been spent having students give powerpoint presentations (the Professor doesn’t like to teach)…we spent one class watching a news clip about a small child being bitten by a shark…
  4. While using dummies in the class one of the students put gummy bears in a dummy’s mouth

We have not discussed fire-related emergencies and discussed burns maybe once.  For whatever reason, we were given an assignment to rent Ladder 49, Backdraft and The Guardian and write 3-page reflections on each.  Being that I know from experience the professor will not read my paper and is grading only based on whether or not the essay reaches the 3-page minimum, I decided to have a little fun with my assignment.  Here is my reflection on Backdraft


A backdraft is when a draft of an essay chooses to go backwards…Just kidding…In fire-related emergencies a “backdraft” is described as an extremely dangerous explosion of hot gases that occurs during fires in an enclosed room when oxygen is introduced. 

 Backdraft is a movie which differs from Ladder 49 in the way that it trades realism and poignancy for a heart-pumping thrill ride and staggering exaggerations as well as a random Baldwin brother in order to rake in box office bucks as well as a slew of MTV awards.  The film begins in Chicago, home of wind and deep dish pizzas.  Kurt Russell plays Lt. Stephen “Bull” McCaffery, the ruggedly good-looking brother of William Baldwin’s character, Brian McCaffery.  William Baldwin is best known for being Alec Baldwin’s brother and appearing on a season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.  Art certainly imitates life in this film as Brian McCaffery broods beneath the success of his older brother.  Did I mention that Stephen and Brian McCaffery are both Chicago firefighters at Engine 17? Well, they are.  I suppose that is appropriate being that the movie is centered on fire-related emergencies.  By the way, Brian is haunted by the memory of his father’s death which he witnessed when he was a child. 

Moving right along, beady-eyed-yet-attractive Robert De Niro saunters into the scene as Detective Donald “Shadow” Rimgale who has been investigating a slew of arsons which seem to be related—enter arsonist Ronald Bartel who is played by Donald Sutherland.  Ronald has been imprisoned for many years due to his crimes and literally goes coo-coo for cocoa puffs over fire, especially when fire goes on a killing spree.  In other words, Ronald is a few candles short of a birthday cake.  It is perplexing that the writers of the film thought it would be a good idea to name two characters Ronald and Donald—names that rhyme.  I half-expected Huey Dewey and Louie to pop out and dance a jig but that never happened.  Anyway, Donald (that’s the detective) makes sure that Ronald’s (that’s the arsonist) parole is always turned down because he doesn’t want him to leave and get all flame-happy, and Brian decides to consult Ronald about why he will always be the forgotten Baldwin brother and how is it that he will end up on reality television while Alec Baldwin climbs the fame ladder and lands a hit role on the acclaimed series 30 Rock?  Ronald reminds Brian that it is 1991 and to please stick to the script he has been given, and Brian quickly switches gears and asks for Ronald’s insight into the recent arsons and how they might be related.

Oh snap!  A call is placed to Engine 17 about a fire in a high-rise and one of the oldest firefighters in 17 John “Axe” Adcox (played by Scott Glenn) is flabbergasted by Stephen’s demands to attack the fire like a lion attacking a gazelle even though backup has yet to arrive.  Great job, Stephen!  Young trainee firefighter Tim Krizminski (played by Jason Gedrick) ends up having his face burned off and—though he survives—is completely unrecognizable as a result.  Brian and John are completely livid over the situation and put Stephen on a guilt trip.  The whole scene is completely dramatic and riddled with emotions as each actor attempts to get an Oscar nomination.

Meanwhile, villainous alderman Martin Swayzak (played by some dude named J.T. Walsh) puts the firefighters in danger being that he has been paid off to shut down firehouses in order to convert them into community centers.  Martin wants to be elected as mayor in order to update the “Employers” section of his Facebook account.  Martin is quickly reminded that Facebook hasn’t been invented yet but remains fixed on being the villain of the film.  In an illicit twist, Brian’s ex-girlfriend—Jennifer Vaitkus (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh)—works for Martin and is conflicted by her dedication to her job and the burning desire of love she still harbors for Brian.  She eventually sides with Brian and they probably have a bunch of babies or something but the movie ends before anyone can find that out.

This film proves it has more twists than a curly fry when Stephen confronts Adcox and finds out that he is the serial arsonist who was setting fires in an attempt to kill Martin’s associates.  This confrontation takes place during the climactic monster of a fire during the end of the film and Adcox ends up perishing in the fire and Stephen is wounded.  Stephen eventually dies from his fatal wounds and it is extremely sad and a total buzzkill.  Brian carries on with his career as a firefighter as a tribute to his father and brother.  Martin also is exposed by Rimgale and has no chance of becoming mayor, so at least that makes for kind of a happy ending.

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