Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - January, 2011


"Backdraft" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton



The movie centers around Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin), who returns home to Chicago after years of failed business ventures to make sure he doesn't follow the family line of becoming a Firefighter. After giving in and completing the Fire Academy, he is placed in his brother's company, one of the toughest. His brother Steven (Kurt Russell) is still a bit annoyed with him for not deciding to become a fireman right off the bat (Chicago firefighters have a stout tradition for family continuance and stubborn old fashioned fire fighting that has no room for progressive tactics). He seems determined to make sure Brian either stays with it or quits. Sibling rivalry ensues. All the while, a murderous arsonist is on the loose in the city!


  • Universal Studios
  • 1991, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 17 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.35:1
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • 1080p
  • English, DTS-MA
  • Starring Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Directed by Ron Howard
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Intense Action
  • Sex: Mild
  • Language: Bad


With solid acting by Russell and De Niro, the story line moves right along considering that is over 2 hours long. Sutherland is great as the pyromaniac and nemesis of De Niro. The biggest character of the film though is the fire, and it is astounding! Even though the movie is over 20 years old, it holds up well today. With the element of real fire, the visual results are frightening and impressive. The fire almost looks like a living creature at times. Ron Howard (wisely in my opinion) chose not to go with CGI fire, which adds to the visual intesity of the movie. All in all, the movie was involving and the fire fighting scenes exhilarating to watch. In the firefighting genre, this movie is still one of the best.


For the most part the picture quality is very good, but some scenes are a bit soft. Flecks of dirt appear occasionally throughout the movie. Still, not bad for a 20 year old film. Sound is quite dynamic for the most part, but I had trouble hearing all of the dialog from the center channel. Sound effects and music often overwhelmed the conversations. However, the sound effects were marvelous during the fire fighting sequences, with crackling fire and breaking glass continuously going off in the surrounds. Plenty of subwoofer action, especially when the fire balls explode during the backdraft scenes.


Ron Howard introduction, deleted scenes, "Igniting the story", stunts, "Creating the villain: fire" and real life stories from actual firemen.