A daring private firefighter and his crew cap oil well fires for pay. [ Hellfighters credits: Dir: Andrew V. McLaglen/ John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Jim Hutton/ 121 min/ Action-Adventure/ Creator as Hero]
“Hellfighters is a good example of the creator-as-hero theme and endorses as well the idea that risk is a necessary part of a worthwhile human existence.”
Loosely based on the life of Red Adair, a real-life entrepreneur who made a living out of fighting oil well fires and who was also an innovator in oil well safety, this film captures some of his triumph. Hellfighters is a good example of the creator-as-hero theme and endorses as well the idea that risk is a necessary part of a worthwhile human existence.
The story opens with the scene of a heroic firefighter arriving at a damaged oil well that has caught on fire, gushing flaming hot oil hundreds of feet into the air. The firefighter and his skilled team courageously corner the fire using specialized equipment and finally blow it out with explosives. It’s an exciting moment, and the process of how the fire is extinguished is well explained.
However, the firefighter is injured in the course of these events and must be hospitalized. The hospital calls his nearest kin, and we soon learn that his hair-raising occupation long ago broke up his marriage. News of his hospitalization brings his wife back into the picture, but the question to be resolved is — now that she’s back, can she at last learn to live with the risk associated with his heroic occupation?
If all this sounds melodramatic, it is, but this interpersonal story is only half of Hellfighters. The other and better half is the firefighting itself. These latter scenes, though not up to today’s standards for action effects, are credible and exciting. Woven into the firefighting is a rare and satisfying focus on entrepreneurial heroism. John Wayne is likable, as always, as the rough-and-tumble lead.