Ladder 49

Rated 3.0 Trapped in a fire, with his comrades scrambling to find and rescue him, a veteran firefighter (Joaquin Phoenix) looks back over his career and home life since his days as a rookie. Writer Lewis Colick and director Jay Russell use the structure of alternating flashbacks with present-day urgency to craft a vigorous, efficient tale of the strains and rewards of a firefighter’s life. For 87 minutes it’s one of the best movies of the year. Then, incredibly, just inches from the finish line, Russell and Colick screw it all up in one of the worst endings in movie history—so absolutely wrong that it makes everything that came before, when the movie makes hardly a false move, look like a lucky fluke. It’s still worth seeing for what it does right, but best to leave before the last scene ruins everything.