I have faint memories of the original film. Backdraft starred William Baldwin, Kurt Russell, Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Glenn, Rebecca De Mornay, and Donald Sutherland. In other words, plenty of star power. This second kick at the can the “name” actors here has been whittled down to William Baldwin and Donald Sutherland. More importantly it is the story which has been severely pared down.
Being a fireman is the family business for Sean McCaffrey (Joe Anderson – Across the Universe, The Grey). Just like his father and uncle Brian (William Baldwin – The Squid and the Whale, Sliver) with a slight twist in that he is a fire investigator. His job starts after the fire is out. He works at the same fire house as he deceased father used to and his uncle works out of.
A wrinkle in his way of working he is assigned a new partner named Maggie (Alisha Bailey – appeared in episodes of Doctor Who and Call the Midwife). A raw rookie. Sean does not have the time or patience to teach someone new as they have a serial arsonist on their hands. Or, as they come figure out, a terrorist group which hires arsons.
To help figure out who is behind all this Sean turns to jailed master arsonist, Ronald Bartel (Donald Sutherland – M.A.S.H., The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1). It is a race against time to try and stop an evil plan from coming to fruition.
Unlike the original this one is much lighter on action. Hardly any scenes of fighting fires because the lead character is not a firefighter rather an investigator. Probably due to the lower budget. Much of the CGI here is rather poor and so it makes sense that they stayed away from fire scenes.
Another weak part is the story as it relies too much on our affection for the first rather than establishing itself. It is also rather cheesy in portions. Predictable and as a result boring.
Finally the acting is rather uneven. Donald Sutherland is excellent as a creepy incarcerated arsonist. Joe Anderson does a solid job in the lead other than some accent issues. But others don’t come off so well.