What does it take to be the man who runs headlong into a burning building when everyone else is trying to get out? LADDER 49 is a moving look at how extraordinary heroes emerge out of ordinary lives, relationships and dreams.
Set against a busy Baltimore engine company, the film peers into the private world of a typical urban firehouse and exposes the often hidden human element that lies behind the familiar headlines of firefighters battling furious blazes. It does so by probing one emblematic fireman’s story — from his gonzo drive to join the brotherhood of firefighters and his first encounter with the woman who will become the love of his life; to the harrowing shifts that keep him from home, the conflicting emotions that grip him as he starts a family and the bold rescues that are the job’s true reward. A starkly intimate homage to the everyday sacrifices of firefighters, LADDER 49 also reveals that behind every person who selflessly saves lives are many others who make it possible.
LADDER 49 enters the life of devoted firefighter Jack Morrison (JOAQUIN PHOENIX) as it hangs in the balance. In his zeal to help rescue a trapped civilian, Jack has been swallowed deep inside a warehouse now transformed into a furnace of snarling flames, impenetrable black smoke and collapsing debris. Cut off from all help, Jack fights for survival, while outside his mentor and Fire Chief, Mike Kennedy (JOHN TRAVOLTA), battles to get his best friend out alive. As the two men make a desperate last gambit, Jack reflects, moment by moment, year by year, on how he got himself into this predicament.
Starting with the day he first met then-Captain Kennedy and joined the Baltimore Fire Department, Jack journeys back in time to reveal a gripping account of a hero-in-the-making. He recalls his initiation into the close-knit, prank-filled, courage-fed band of brothers at the firehouse, and the discovery of his own deeply held compulsion to save lives. But beyond the thrills and excitement of fighting fires, also lies something else: the powerful bonds of friendship with his fellow firefighter Tommy Drake (MORRIS CHESTNUT) and the enduring romance that he has fought to keep alive with his equally strong wife Linda (JACINDA BARRETT). Pushed to the limits of loyalty and courage, Jack holds tight to indelible memories as he waits for his own rescue.