Brooke Burns in Trial by Fire (2008) (aka: Smoke Jumper)

Fire Causes Burns to Jump

Smokejumpers is a branch of the fire service which here in the UK is unheard of, they are the highly trained, courageous men and women who parachute into remote locations to tackle fires. The training they undertake is extensive and the safety procedures mean that whilst these brave fire fighters may put their lives at risk it is not done in some macho adrenalin junkie way. With that in mind I come to "Trial by Fire" or "Smoke Jumper" as it is also known, a movie about a woman who through a series of circumstances applies to be a Smokejumper and if you were looking for a movie which painted the work of the Smokejumpers in a true light this isn't it, nor is this a movie for realistic fire fighting full stop. You see "Trial by Fire" is all about a woman proving herself in a macho world and as such there is so much macho stuff going on that it borders on the corny, entertaining but corny.

On the day of his retirement from Rawlings Fire Service Hank Scott (Winston Rekert - The Art of War II) decides to tackle one more burning building with his daughter Kristin (Brooke Burns - Time and Again), who is part of his team. But when Hank dies Kristin's colleagues and sister Chelsea (Erin Karpluk - Termination Point) blame her for his death as he stayed on for an extra year just to work with Kristin. Unable to deal with the resentment Kristin quits the Rawlings Dire Service and sets about proving herself in the demanding and rugged world of the Smokejumpers, a male dominated world full of sexism.

Rick Ravanello in Trial by Fire (2008) (aka: Smoke Jumper)

Whilst "Trial by Fire" is set around the world of Smokejumpers the story itself is really a bit of a cliche as we have a woman who is trying to prove herself in a man's world. But before we even get to that we get quite a build up as we witness Kristin tackling fires as part of the Rawlings Fire Service and following her dad's death, who was the Chief, finds herself blamed for his death. It is too be frank quite unbelievable especially when it comes to Kristin's own sister blaming her for their dad's death despite the fact he was just doing his job and when the men of the fire brigade also turn on her it veers towards the corny.

But then the real storyline to "Trial by Fire" is about Kristin proving she can compete in the male dominated world of the Smokejumpers and dealing with the sexism at the same time. Now to be honest the storyline is quiet weak, Kristin trains just to be allowed to apply; she deals with the sexism of other rookies during training as well as the chauvinist opinions from existing Smokejumpers. Add to this a touch of cliche romance as she gets friendly with another Smokejumper and what you get is a lot of machismo, slow motion training most of which looks fake.

Now this all leads to a highly predictable end as whilst we have Kristin proving herself capable of being a Smokejumper there is her sister Chelsea and family on a camping weekend where there just happens to start a huge forest fire. If you can't predict how this goes then lucky you because it is so telegraphed that it is painful and throw in a ton of corny dialogue and scenes packed full of more cheesy machismo and you will find yourself laughing.

In a very strange way "Trial by Fire" sort of reminded me of "Top Gun", not in the storyline but the sense of machismo and heroics it delivers which means those who like their entertainment to be over the top and unrealistic might be entertained. Actually it would be fair to say that not once does "Trial by Fire" say it is a true representation of what Smokejumpers do or how deadly forest fires are and so in a way it does what it sets out to. But then for those who do know a bit about fire fighting and Smokejumpers will find it bad in its representation.

As for the acting well firstly we have a lot of cliche characters, from hunky muscle bound fire-fighters to those who are sexist as well as a bitchy sister who is jealous of a relationships between her father and sister. It all makes it a little corny and to be honest Brooke Burns as Kristin Scott does little to stop it from feeling corny because when she should be grimacing in pain from a run she is smiling, when she goes on a date she is suddenly stunningly beautiful. It actually feels like Brooke Burns has been cast because she has a slight similarity to Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby" as there are the similarities in the storyline with a woman proving herself to be tough enough.

What this all boils down to is that "Trial by Fire" is entertaining but only in an over the top macho sort of way, akin to the macho BS of "Top Gun". And as such if you came to watch "Trial by Fire" because you read it was about Smokejumpers and forest fires you are going to end up seriously disappointed.