Wildfire: Feel the Heat

on August 01, 2008 by Mike Kerrigan
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   Having chilled audiences to the bone with the awe-inspiring "Everest," large-format screens now go to the other extreme and raise viewers' temperatures with the heroics of the men and women who fight forest fires and other blazes in hard-to-reach areas.
   The visuals are stunning and on the giant screen one is taken right into the heart of the inferno. Director Mike Slee puts his camera into some very imaginative places as well as obviously dangerous ones. There are several of the tried-and-true aircraft exteriors, but he also puts one on the ground as the water-dropping plane douses the fire--and, seemingly, the viewer.
   He latches another to a smokejumper, a firefighter who parachutes onto a blaze that cannot be reached in any other fashion. The audience is right there at the landing, and it's a jolting experience.
   However, no matter how spectacular it looks, "Wildfire" has an emotional void. The film fails to seriously involve us with who these heroes are or why they do what they do. Without that it's difficult to see their exploits in other than in an abstract way. There are a few voice-over quotes from the firefighters used along with Andre Braugher's restrained narration, but nothing that would draw us into the action with them.    Directed by Mike Slee. Written by Michael Olmert. Narrated by Andre Braugher. Produced by Richard Sattin, Phil Streather and Mick Kaczorowski. A Discovery Pictures release. Documentary. Not rated. Running time: 40 min.
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