Backdraft (1991) – 7/10 fire-fighting thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Kurt Russell: Stephen McCaffrey
William Baldwin: Brian McCaffrey
Scott Glenn: John Adcox
Jennifer Jason Leigh: Jennifer Vaitkus
Donald Sutherland: Ronald Bartel
Rebecca De Mornay: Helen McCaffrey
Jason Gedrick: Tim Krizminski
J.T. Walsh: Martin Swayzak
Robert DeNiro: Donald Rimgale
Writer: Gregory Widen
Producer: Richard B. Lewis
Producer: Pen Densham
Producer: John Watson
Director: Ron Howard
Stuntperson: William Baldwin
Stuntperson: Scott Glenn
Stuntperson: Kurt Russell

Backdraft (1991)

Twenty years after witnessing his fire-fighter father’s death, shiftless Brian McCaffrey returns to Chicago, finally following family tradition into the hazardous profession. Meeting hostility from his experienced older brother Stephen, and cool scepticism from ex-girlfriend Jennifer, Brian finds he has a lot to learn, and to prove. Meanwhile, amid mounting public concern and political interference, an arsonist is at large in the city.


Dreadful dialogue ("career dissipation light"), William Baldwin (merely okay), Scott Glenn (embarrassing during the climax) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (just awful) threaten to snuff out this fire-fighting thriller but charismatic turns from Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland and Kurt Russell, coupled with what is still, twenty years later, the greatest depiction of fire ever seen on celluloid and an incredible climax mean that this becomes a strong film and an action touchstone. Director Ron Howard’s talent for spectacular action set-pieces was unknown at the time but, first time out, his final action set-piece (which takes place in a burning chemical factory) is still one of the finest action sequences Hollywood has ever produced. What really lifts the movie, however, is the emotional impact that Howard finally manages to weave into the cocktail and his most critical ingredient is certainly Hans Zimmer’s fantastically powerful music.

This movie contains sexual swear words and unpleasant and gory scenes, graphic violence and sex scene.

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.


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