Irwin Allen, meet “Rescue: 911.” The disaster-flick revolution of the ’90s has already been televised. In “Firestorm,” all that’s left for the director, writer and actors to do is “go to the videotape.”
Tape of Oakland’s devastating inferno of ’91 is compellingly scary stuff. Hundreds of acres burned, from the parched hills across the freeway into “safe” suburbia.
Director Michael Tuchner splices as much verite firefighting as he can with his dramatic subplots: “real” people (i.e., composite characters) caught in, fleeing, then recovering from the holocaust.
Key player is fire chief J. Allan Mather (LeVar Burton), new guy in Oakland having a rough first day on the job. The deputy chief (Michael Gross) resents his rookie boss at first, until they bond in the face of the flames.
The movie is a two-hour fire-safety lesson. Acting is reenactment-style: minimal or mawkish.
Real star is the fire, mesmerizingly camcorded from the air and ground. TV is supposed to be the electronic hearth. This time it’s the real thing.