Movie Review: ONLY THE BRAVE

Movie Review: ONLY THE BRAVE

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges , Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Andie MacDowell

It may not seem like the right time to see a movie about wild fires given the tragic fires engulfing parts of California. I urge you to rethink that idea as this film will no doubt change your attitude and give you a better appreciation for the men, women, and families that put their lives on the front line. Josh Brolin stars as Eric Marsh who has given his life to his career as a supervisor to the firemen of Prescott, Arizona. He’s a stand up, noble kind of guy always looking out for his men. With a job that intense paired with his level of devotion, something has to give. We see that his marriage to his wife, Amanda (Connelly), is starting to crumble. Tensions also start to rise between his men and other area firemen as his crew is trying to get certification to become Hot Shots. They’re the firemen on the front line directly engaged with the flames. Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Teller) is his newest recruit who comes with his own troubled background. He’s a drug addict looking to rebuild his life as he’s a new father. Marsh has the experience and knowledge and correctly predicts the town of Yarnell could easily go up in flames. A massive fire breaks out putting the newly formed Granite Mountain Hot Shots in extreme danger as this is by far their largest and most dangerous fire to date.

The film is based on a true story as detailed in the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn. Brendan McDonough has written his own book Granite Mountain narrowing in on the events from his perspective. The script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer takes a human interest approach to tell their story as opposed to giving it that standard disaster, blockbuster type of movie. It’s the key to what makes Only the Brave surprisingly meaningful and powerful. There’s a nice amount of exposition as we get introduced to a variety of the key players before we even see them called into action. The core of this group is Eric Marsh as their supervisor. The film introduces his character first as a way of grounding the story and it’s complexities with him. As Marsh, Josh Brolin definitely has the strength and leadership qualities he needs. I always felt his determination and faults at hand which I don’t always see from a Brolin performance. Jennifer Connelly does wonders with a role that easily could have been the underdeveloped standard wife role. Her arc is just as vital to their marriage. She has a deep love of horses taking in a variety of strays and tending to their wounds. We see how the brutal hours during fire season takes its toll on their marriage. Amanda is not afraid to speak her mind to stand up for what she wants out of her husband and marriage. They’re some heartbreaking scenes to watch, and yet, rarely make it into these types of movies.

The taxing fire season takes its toll on the evolution of Brendan McDonough. It’s clearly brought forth thanks to the grounded performance by Miles Teller. You want him to come back from addiction in a positive way but it pains you to know the work is affecting the relationship he’s trying to have with his baby daughter. I think anyone that struggles with work/life balance and that idea of doing what you’re passionate about will relate to many of the discussions and arguments brought forth.

It isn’t always a heavy drama pulling at the heart strings. Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy) builds up the ensemble nature of the movie by spending time with the guys on and off the clock. They are a close-knit group of bros set in the dusty Arizona heat. There’s plenty of humor with the ribbing the guys give each other in that brotherly fashion with ample ways of testing your masculinity, especially come bar time. Taylor Kitsch is the cocky one of the group and isn’t too keen on the idea of Miles Teller joining them out in the line of duty. Other moments of levity come with Jeff Bridges who is perfect in the mentor role for Josh Brolin’s character. As we’ve seen in many movies before like Crazy Heart, Hell or High Water, or The Last Picture Show, the cowboy/western type role suits him well. Plus, we get to hear him sing a little as he strums along with his band in the bar scene.

Every year we’re given a wide variety of movies based on contemporary true stories showcasing some sort of heroism and bravery put forth. They’re meant to tug at the heart and maybe put your own life in perspective. Only the Brave does all of that. You may need a tissue for the closing credit montage. It’s educational in a sense of how these firefighters do their work without water and gives you an inside look at the culture at hand. You can feel the heat and urgency with the use of practical fire effects on top of the needed CGI. I hadn’t read the GQ article nor do I remember the news story, but I left with a heavy heart and open mind taking a pause to think about what’s currently happening in California and the lives that have been affected by those fires.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? A well-rounded human interest story showing the brotherhood and bravery of these men and their families.


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