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By Anthony Miele | August 2, 1999

“Wildfire” is the newest addition to the 70MM IMAX series of films. With walls of flames as great as a building and the threat of disaster even greater, IMAX brings to life, as the title may lead you to believe, the world of firefighting in the wild forests of California, Oregon and Idaho among others. The film not only shows the devastation that these walls of heat incur, but moreover, the steps taken in prevention, as well as the aftermath of these great beasts.
As a viewer, you will find yourself being briefly dragged through some of the various training exercises involved, such as the parachuting team who will jump through thick trees and travel where no land-based vehicle dare go … or the team who must actually practice opening their life-saving fire shelters next to the stiff wind created by a plane’s engine (to signify the intense wind brought about by the wildfire itself).
While these visuals are amazing, again visuals that only IMAX can do justice, the film just does not seem to mesh together as a great documentary should. One major problem may be the fact that the film adds to the mix an overly dramatic narration by Andre Braugher. Unfortunatley this narration, admittedly necessary, brings to the film a sense of drama that is wholly NOT necessary. That is to say, there is enough inherent drama and tension in the incredible scenery and the vast destruction that the added drama brought on by these extremely wordy descriptions seem to make the film more like a soap opera than an actual documentary.
Overall, “Wildfire” is not a bad documentary, it is just not nearly as good as it could have, and should have been. Maybe if the narration were trimmed slightly or just re-written the film would have worked on a more interesting, more intelligent level, although how else are we going to learn what a “prescribed” fire is?

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