I have always loved movies based on real life, spanning Erin Brockovich, Schindler’s List, My Left Foot and the more recent plethora of Mark Wahlberg reality based movies like Patriot’s Day and Deepwater Horizon.
Whilst some may argue these movies are exploitative in nature, for the majority I would disagree, and suggest rather they honour the stories and courage of people highlighted within, and the tragedies and inspiration impact more because they are non-fiction. Indeed, I feel “Only the Brave” is one film which totally honours.
Only the Brave chronicles the small town of Prescott, Arizona, forest firefighting crew who trained specifically to go into into on-fire areas and establish a controlled fire line which the approaching infernal cannot cross. These controlled fire lines provide the barriers by which fires raging though forests are forestalled from crossing into populated towns.
After four years of training and having ‘second wave’ status in real fire events, this crew under the leadership of Chief Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) is finally evaluated, achieving certification and the elite status of ‘hotshots’.
Naming themselves the Granite Mountain Hotshots they became the country’s first municipal hotshot squad.
With the increased responsibilties of ‘hotshot’ and hero status, there are increased work pressures, for example, time away from home and loved ones, which impacts crew members.
Chief Eric Marsh and his wife, Amanda (played by Jennifer Connelly) exhibit increased relationship tension, whilst the new recruit, Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) who has overcome a drug addiction to become a responsible dad, considers the importance of being hands-on and available for his daughter.
Only the Brave focusses beautifully on how the crew grows and develops, both personally and professionally, and there are some laugh out loud moments of comraderie and friendship, especially with Chris (Taylor Kitsch).
The audience gains an understanding of the responsibilities of hotshots, and the importance of their actions.
We are shown the crew working in effective sequences and even when working in enormous fire storms which are visually spectacular and intense, Director Joseph Kosinski does not go overboard in the effects department; effectively emphasising fire is a faceless and merciless foe. Fact.
This is a crew which becomes a brotherhood, and together they face the devastasting fire at Yarnell Hill in 2013.
It’s a great cast, inclusive of Jeff Bridges and Andie MacDowell, and is a definite go-see. 4.5 stars. …
You’ll laugh and cry (take some tissues!).