Backdraft (4K Blu-Ray Review)

Backdraft has often been one of those movies for me that I forget about. For whatever reason, despite the fact that the film is engaging, well acted and steadfastly directed, I always sock it away somehow. The funniest part to me is that despite it going left of my attention a lot of the time, each time I revisit it I am reminded of the excellent story structure that balances drama, thriller and action, the strong cast (Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca Demornay, Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland and JT Walsh… phew, what a cast!) playing at their best and the lovingly crafted direction from Ron Howard.  This exceptional 4K Release has made it very hard to imagine me forgetting this fantastic movie until the next viewing though! Check out more about the movie below that hit stores May 7th!




Backdraft is the heroic family story of The McCaffrey Brothers, Brian and Stephen. Beginning with a scene dating to 1970, we see Brian and Stephen as young boys, growing up in the fire house and idolizing their father. He seems to be a fearless firefighter with saving lives on the brain. The boys clearly see his strengths and his heroism shines through. When the Captain sadly loses his life during a fire fight, Brian becomes a national news subject when he is photographed just after witnessing his father’s death.

Flash forward 20 years, and Stephen (Russell) has become the epitome of his father. He is heroic, fearless and married to his job. This means, unfortunately, that his wife and child are thrown to the wayside. He isn’t living at home anymore and despite being a workaholic, he certainly has a feeling that he’s missing something. Brian (Baldwin) has been through many jobs and many tryouts to become a fireman in his own right. Nothing seems to stick, but Brian has just completed his academy training and has been assigned to Engine 17, the same fire station his father once captained and the same one that Stephen is a lieutenant at. The brothers have been estranged for a while, and they still act like kids, arguing and typically in some sort of competition.

The real meat of the story comes by the way of a mystery string of fires happening throughout Chicago. Investigator “Shadow” Rimgale (DeNiro) is trying to connect the dots but only has so much in the way of clues. The fires come off as explosions that then more or less extinguish themselves. The victims are all connected somehow and it’s up to “Shadow” to figure out The “Who’s, what’s and why’s” of the fires. He has a special way of looking at things and often uses his past to help him find new connections.

Through all of this, Engine 17 is also battling a shady seeming Alderman named Swayzac (Walsh) who wants to steer Brian towards a cushy office job, and also Brian’s rekindled romance with Jennifer (Leigh), Who happens to work for Swayzac. To say more would give too much away.

Other moments in the story include some interesting plot twists, and some stunning firefighting sequences that are just as dynamic now as they were in 1991. There really is a tension throughout the action sequences and a great story is unfolded in the leisurely 2-hour plus length. We are never bored throughout though and this movie truly does have repeat viewing written all over it. I am continuously reminded since watching this new 4K disc of the wonderful acting from the many amazing actors and the truly involving structure the movie employs.  We care about the characters we see and we are engrossed in their lives in even the simplest moments.


Encoding: HEVC/ H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p) Digital Intermediate of 35mm Camera Negative

Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1

Clarity/Detail: Clarity for Backdraft is top notch. A catalog title can often be hit or miss but in this case, the remaster was done lovingly. There are little to no moments of softness in this film. Backgrounds in firehouses and burning buildings are reproduced with a strong level of detail. Nothing is washed out or blurry and you see more than ever before with this edition.

Depth: Depth is presented well here. You don’t get a 3D Pop and shouldn’t, but there is nothing flat whatsoever about the image.

Black Levels: Black levels are faithful to the source. Any moment of darkness or dark set piece or dark clothing is presented with an inky black deepness that we 4K fans love!

Color Reproduction: Color reproduction is also very faithful. We are treated to a more washed out look for the 1971 sequence, which was never noticeable before and when we get to the 1991 (née present day) scenes, the vibrancy of the color palette shines through. Reds are the obvious HDR color showcase here but get gorgeous color throughout from all the scenes indoors or outdoors. Some sunset and nighttime shots are clearly gorgeous as well.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones look great. There is not a pasty person to view in this transfer at all. We see everyone looking as natural as possible here.

Noise/Artifacts: Grain is reproduced subtly. The grain structure is far from noisy and looks filmic and adds to the texture of the film in the best way possible.


Audio Format(s): English DTS:X (DTS-HD MA Core 7.1), French and Japanese DTS 5.1, Portuguese DTS Mono, Spanish 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish

Dynamics: Dynamics are just the start for this reference grade DTS:X Soundtrack… Every piece of sound is presented perfectly here. Highs are nice and clear and lows are incredible all around. Every speaker is used effectively throughout, even in smaller, quieter scenes.

Low Frequency Extension: Bass is a major plus to this mix as well. There are many thunderous moments in the film, from explosions to vehicle engines, to passing El Trains. This isn’t a subwoofer punisher, but every moment that utilizes bass response is of superior quality. This one rivals some newer films in this department.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used actively through the whole film. We hear firehouse chatter, city noise, and other subtleties. When it comes to action sequences, the fire sound effects take control and are the main surround focus. Music often spreads itself into the surround channels as well.

Height Presentation: Height channels are used most often in the firehouse, the fire fighting sequences and other areas where they are used in lore ambient ways. The height channels are used quite thoughtfully here.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is front and center. In the occasion of off screen dialogue, we hear it in other speakers, which places us wherever the action is happening. Dialogue sounds great too!


Extras can be found on the standard Blu-ray, and they are of a DVD vintage.  You won’t find anything new, but the features are as follows, all in Standard Definition:

Ron Howard Introduction (2:52)

Deleted Scenes (43:10)

Igniting the Story (15:00) – Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer discuss the screenplay

The Explosive Stunts (14:41) — Obviously, a discussion on the practical stunts performed throughout the film.

Creating the Villain – The Fire — (12:51) about the many scenes involving fire

Real Life Firemen: Real Life Stories (8:58) — A small piece on the Santa Clarita Fire Department’s Station 73


This edition of Backdraft  brings with it a stunning new transfer and an outstanding (and to my ears) reference quality DTS:X soundtrack. For fans of the film and newcomers alike, this 4K disc is absolutely worth a look. The only gripe from me would be that it would be nice to see some features that don’t date from the early 2000’s. Other than that, buy with confidence. This one is truly hot!



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