Only the Brave review
For those that live in heavy forest or near one, how often are you worried that a wildfire could one day wipe it all out? The darker side of nature is found within the ashes of former trees and bushes that have been consumed by a fire. It’s tragic too see a favorite landscape burned to a point that makes it fit in with a post-apocalyptic Mad Max world. Though some are man made, many wildfires seem to happen by forces of nature. In fact, before mankind, fire seemed to be the dominant land maker, shaping the world based on how much was burned. Now that everything is more occupied, it’s up to us to keep it out.
Any firefighter will tell you that it’s not as easy as using a fire hose. A wildfire is unpredictable and could go from ten acres to a hundred thousand should wind pick up. Wildfires require a strong defense to keep it boxed so that the offensive can charge at it easier. Sometimes it’s doing seasonal burns to block future fires. Sometimes it’s digging around areas that could slow down a fires progress. The true life story in Only the Brave centers around these firefighters that are in that battle with the elements.
Eric Marsh (played by Josh Brolin) is the superior of a firefighting team that’s in charge of dealing with a lot of the aftermath of wildfires, cleaning up after the first responders come in. He’s trying his best to work with his boss Duane Steinbrink (played by Jeff Bridges) to get his crew promoted by the state while being a perfect husband to his wife, a horse trainer Amanda (played by Jennifer Connelly). The rest of the crew seems like most men’s group, with a lot of joking around, but prepped for the job when another fire strikes.
Young slacker Brendan McDonough (played by Miles Teller) has no ambition or plans for a future…that is until he finds out that a girl he dated if five months pregnant with his child. This, along with his mother kicking him out, prompts him to apply for Eric’s fire team for one of the open slots. Though he’s not as fit as everyone, he’s accepted into one of the open slots as he doesn’t give up. Throughout the year of 2013, he becomes a vital part of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but then a voice during the Yarnell Hill Fire. This you’ll have to find out why.
You may notice that firefighting movies are not made too often. This is because fire is hazardous to the actors and crew and takes a crew of skilled special effect artists to keep everyone safe. Only the Brave not only looks impressive, but I found myself getting into the story more then I realized. While it could have focused on the Yarnell fire, filmmaker Jospeh Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) clearly wanted his audience to get to know these guys. While I can’t say it all worked, it certainly gave me a good idea.
The winning actor here is Josh Brolin. In the day and age where most men still want to look like boys, Brolin has embraced time, and this role rewards that, but letting his look of ruggedness work in favor of a fire superintendent who has clearly been doing this for years. I’ll say that Miles Teller was surprisingly sympathetic as the slacker who is trying to do better. I would have thought this story would have wanted to included a moment of him getting back into old habits, but this story understands we’ve seen that cliché several times.
It could have been one of the best movies of the year had it knew how to focus on the rest of the fire crew. The movie does try that, but it already isn’t easy considering there’s about nineteen of them, so it’s going to be difficult to tell who even which one is. Perhaps they could have landed on five other firefighters and make them interesting characters. Whenever it cuts away from Josh Brolin, Miles Teller or Jeff Bridges, everything just halts to a slow bore. That’s when I’m actually hoping for another fire to start, to at least give these guys something to do.
I’ll give this four signs into Yarnell, Arizona out of five. Only the Brave is interesting, if not focused on some of the wrong things. I’m glad I saw this, though I’m not sure if this will have a lot of rewatch value. Go take a look and see what I mean.