Thursday, March 3, 2011
I find this film very hard to describe. The film is about the firemen at a particular firehouse in Hong Kong. They have a reputation for being jinxed and everyone lives in fear of something terrible happening. Indeed the film opens with the crew going en-mass to the emergency room because they all ate tainted food. As time goes on we watch them as they perform rescues and get on with their lives. Its very soapy stuff, well done but very unremarkable (especially considering the director is master Johnnie To).
However about an hour into the film it shifts its focus and becomes 45 minutes of some of the tensest action you've ever seen as Director To gets on our nerves as the group of men and women that we have just a great deal of time getting to know, are now trapped inside a burning factory and they have no clear way out. It will rattle your cage in a way few films can.
Its an odd film, and in reality its actually two films the big fire and before. The before stuff is pretty pedestrian stuff and you can pretty much fill in the blanks. However once this film kicks into high gear and the crew is called into action this movie becomes an action classic. Certainly the fire sequence is one of the greatest fire scenes ever put on film. The entire set piece consists of "oh my god"shots as the crew struggles to get out from what is essentially a funeral pyre. Its amazing (and was no doubt cribbed by the makers of Ladder 49). Odds are you'll never have seen anything like this unless you were trapped in a burning factory.
If you love action films you have to see the end of this movie. The first hour isn't horrible, but its nothing special, the second half is pure classic.
7 out of 10.