×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Backdraft

Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it's shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations.

With:
Kurt Russell William Baldwin Robert De Niro Scott Glenn Jennifer Jason Leigh Donald Sutherland

Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations.

Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This provides shorthand for later formulaic conflicts between fire-fighting brothers Kurt Russell and William Baldwin.

Baldwin is ambivalent about fire-fighting as a result of a childhood experience. His older brother, the charismatic Russell, is a hardboiled sort, even more recklessly heroic than the father.

Widen uncertainly blends these tiresome family quarrels with a suspense plot involving fire department investigator Robert De Niro’s search for a mysterious arsonist. His intense obsessive characterization is a major plus for the film but isn’t given enough screen time.

Though De Niro is portrayed as the Sherlock Holmes of arson investigators, script has him and Baldwin led to the truth by the airheaded assistant (Jennifer Jason Leigh) of a corrupt local alderman (J.T. Walsh) and by an institutionalized pyromaniac played by Donald Sutherland with his customary glee.

The spectacular fire scenes are done with terrifying believability (usually with the actors in the same shot as the fire effects) and a kind of sci-fi grandeur.

1991: Nominations: Best Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects

Backdraft

Production: Universal/Imagine. Director Ron Howard; Producer Richard B. Lewis, Pen Densham, John Watson; Screenplay Gregory Widen; Camera Mikael Salomon; Editor Daniel Hanley, Michael Hill; Music Hans Zimmer; Art Director Albert Brenner

Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 135 MIN.

With: Kurt Russell William Baldwin Robert De Niro Scott Glenn Jennifer Jason Leigh Donald Sutherland

More Film

  • Cassandra Butcher Joins Bron Studios as

    Fox Searchlight Executive Cassandra Butcher Joins Bron Studios as Chief Marketing Officer

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • greenbook BTS Peter Farrelly

    'Green Book' Director Peter Farrelly on His Production Crew's Drive for Authenticity

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • Aretha Franklin performs at pre-inaugural festivities,

    Aretha Franklin Documentary 'Amazing Grace': Helping Her 'Family to Heal and Move on'

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • Scott Budnick

    Scott Budnick’s One Community Aims to Make a Difference With Activist Content

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • The Quiet Place BTS John Krasinski

    Unexpected Hopefuls Enliven This Year's Oscar Race for Director Gold

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • Writer of Ennio Morricone Story Made

    Writer of Ennio Morricone Story Criticizing Tarantino Made 'Terrible Mistakes,' Playboy Says

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

  • Matthew LibatiqueAmerican Society of Cinematographers Awards,

    'A Star Is Born' Cinematographer Matthew Libatique Arrested for Assault

    Director Ron Howard torches off more thrilling scenes in Backdraft than any Saturday matinee serial ever dared. Visually, pic often is exhilarating, but it’s shapeless and dragged down by corny, melodramatic characters and situations. Ex-fireman Gregory Widen’s script about Chicago smokeaters begins with a scene of the two central characters as boys in 1971. This […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content