November 9, 2023

BACKDRAFT: Still Visually Impressive

1991 / 137 min
Available at
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

For those too young to be there, Backdraft was a pretty amazing experience in theaters. Raging fire had never been depicted quite like this before. Lovingly (almost voyeuristically) directed by Ron Howard, fire was practically a character unto itself, an antagonist both menacing and oddly beautiful. From a technical standpoint, the film was Howard’s crowning achievement at the time.

Three decades later, the fire sequences remain pretty amazing, mainly because most of them were done for real and didn’t rely all that much on special effects. Not only that, some of the main cast did a lot of their own stunts. Depending on one’s home video set-up, the action scenes are nearly as exciting as they were on the big screen (especially on Blu-ray). 

As for the rest, well…

How many De Niros does it take to change a light bulb?
I’ve always been a huge Kurt Russell fan. He’s no master thespian, but compensates with an earnestness that’s often shamefully underappreciated. It takes a special actor to pull-off a cornball line like “That’s my brother goddammit!” without the audience rolling their collective eyes. When we aren’t watching flames gobble the scenery, Russell easily the best part of the film, his character being the most complex.

There’s a story, of course, that of a serial arsonist targeting specific public officials by incinerating them, and it’s sporadically interesting whenever Robert De Niro is offering exposition about the predatory nature of fire. But the rest is pretty derivative, with stock characters, clunky dialogue and an obligatory romantic subplot between Jennifer Jason Leigh and wooden William Baldwin. But aesthetically, Backdraft has aged remarkably well, with fire sequences that are still pretty jawdropping, as well as another great music score by Hanz Zimmer. The sheer spectacle (and Russell’s performance) make it easier to overlook all the story cliches.

Backdraft has been previously released on Blu-ray numerous times. This "Remastered Edition" features solid picture and sound quality, while all the extras have been carried over from other versions.


FEATURETTES - Igniting the Story (creating the screenplay); Bringing Together the Team (casting); The Explosive Stunts (title tells all); Creating the Villain: The Fire (the true star of the film); Real Life Firemen, Real Life Stories (visiting a real fire station).

INTRODUCTION - By director Ron Howard.

DELETED SCENES - There’s a ton of ‘em.

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