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On Fire

MOVIE | Wildfire disaster movie is too intense for younger viewers and too predictable for older ones


<em>On Fire</em>
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Rated PG-13

On Fire is a new film “inspired by true events” about a family trapped in a wildfire. Dave (co-director Peter Facinelli) and Sarah Laughlin (Fiona Dourif) live with their teen son (Asher Angel) and Dave’s ­ailing father (Lance Henrikson) outside a rural town. Sarah is eight months pregnant, and the family is barely making ends meet. Late one afternoon, they hear reports of nearby wildfires.

The story largely takes place over the course of the next 12 hours. With fires closing in, the Laughlins grab a few belongings and leave their house in a big American pickup truck. The 4x4 gets an action hero’s allotment of screen time as it scrambles over flaming debris, shielding its ­occupants until its oil pan takes one for the team.

The family then sets out on foot through the nighttime forest alight with flames. What can go wrong, does. The film periodically cuts to a 911 call center where dialogues between dispatcher Kayla (Ashlei Foushee) and panicked callers serve to update viewers on the expanding disaster. There are brief mentions of prayer and faith, but any sort of faith-film feel goes up in smoke with the first of many and various expletives.

When the Laughlins watch a woman burn to death, it dawns on them that they may soon ­perish in like fashion. This and a few other scenes are too intense for younger viewers. The rest of the film is too predictable for older ones.

The end credits thank first responders—who have a strangely negligible role in the film—and cite statistics about how many acres of trees are destroyed annually in fires. But there’s no mention of the human toll.

Disaster movies

  • Godzilla / 2014
  • A Night to Remember / 1958
  • The Birds / 1963
  • The Poseidon Adventure / 1972
  • Independence Day / 1996
  • Titanic / 1997
  • Armageddon / 1998
  • War of the Worlds / 2005
  • World War Z / 2013
  • Gravity / 2013

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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