Some of these big budget films simply have it all, which is mind you, included in salaries as well as special effects no doubt, but a film with a top notch all star cast, with pyrotechnic effects that are produced by the best around of that day and with a damn decent script and a strong story driving it, (in this case, a mysterious, but clever arsonist who is driven by anger and a point to make, nuff said), and a bit of a sibling rivalry at its centre, then you get an epic classic like this.
Kurt Russell's career has been pretty consistent over the years, he hasn't done much that I think he isn't going to be proud of at the end of his career, (although I'm not sure if he has ever played a villain), and when you include the classic failures, like The Thing, now considered by most to be one of the finest sci fi horrors ever, then he has a lot to be proud of, and being a natural athlete anyway, which I am guessing he is, and a former Disney kid, which I know he is, then this has to stand as one of his finest performances. He is the lead in a film packed with massive names and some of the best around, William Baldwin, JT Walsh, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Rebecca De Mornay, to name but a few. At the front of it all, and driving the film, aside from its obvious firey drama, is the sibling rivalry he has with his younger brother, Brian, (William Baldwin). I found this to be great fun to watch and very honest in its depiction of two brothers who quite simply do not get along. Hey, in reality, brothers and sisters too let's face it, they fight and they argue people, not all brothers and sisters get along. But I found their tensions and their rivalry to be very believable and wonderfully played. It was like each time they got together, it was like, 'Hey, you're my brother, but sc*** you'.
The pyrotechnic effects of course are awesome. They obviouosly must have had a terrific team for the special effects and they were real too, no cgi, which was at the time, in its infancy. There is an intro by Ron Howard who was going to use cgi, but wanted to test it first, to see if it would look okay, but he thought it looked too fake, so they went with the real thing, and I think they did a fantastic job. Not that I am a fan of the director by the way.
There are some directors out there who I am no fan of, but every so often they will come up with one or two great movies, and Ron Howard is one of them. I am no Ron Howard fan, I just don't think much to the guy, (and if you ever saw the South Bank show with Melvyn Bragg, he looked none too impressed when interviewing the guy either, so I am not alone), but he has made two films which can quite easily go down in movie history as classics and this is one of them, the other being Apollo 13.
This looks amazing on blu ray by the way too. I did have a copy on dvd, but traded it for this among others and the difference is there to see.
This is an absolute cracker of a thriller, and one of the best, if not the best movies about fire out there today, and definitely Ron Howard's finest two hours of filmmaking.