Year:  2017

Director:  Joseph Kosinski

Rated:  M

Release:  October 30, 2017

Distributor: StudioCanal

Running time: 134 minutes

Worth: $16.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Jennifer Connelly

Intro:'d need a particularly hard heart not to be moved by their story.

Based on true events, Only the Brave, the third feature from Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinksi, follows the exploits of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firefighting unit within the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department. Led by avuncular man’s man Eric March (Josh Brolin, square jawed, squint-eyed and leathery), the team’s remit is to fight by hand the ferocious wildfires that threaten rural communities across America. It’s dangerous, grueling work, but these guys are up for it, and the bonds they share are literally fire-forged. Indeed, this sort of gig is for… *points to title*.

Only the Brave is an achingly sincere tribute to a very American, rather old-fashioned brand of heroism, and what value you can pull out of it probably depends on how highly you prize your own sense of ironic detachment. Come at this film from a snide or dismissive angle and you’re in for a terrible time. Meet the film on its own terms, and it’s pretty great.

Its main assets are a really top notch cast, coupled with a willingness to spend time with them so we can get to know the characters they’re bringing to life for us. There’s plenty of action to be found here, but there are a lot of quiet moments of downtime where we just get to hang out with the crew and get a handle on the position they occupy in their community and the relationship dynamics therein.

Our point of ingress is young stuff-up Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller), saddled with a substance abuse problem and separated from the mother of his young daughter, who finds the tough love and honest toil of the fire department is just the tonic he needs to get his crap together. His is a path of redemption, and in walking that track he mirrors to a degree his mentor, who occasionally lets slip hints at a darker time in his life when he’s alone with his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly).

All other considerations aside, the film is worth it for the interplay between Connelly and Brolin (if you’re of a certain age, that’s Sarah from Labyrinth and Brand from The Goonies), whose on-screen relationship feels real and textured – there’s love and support there, absolutely, but it’s not unconditional, and it’s not just Connelly’s good wife standing by her man. Indeed, Connelly’s main narrative function is to point out that there is a cost to this kind of macho heroism, and it’s not just borne by the men on the front line. There’s a fantastic scene where she lays out the sacrifices she’s made to be in her man’s life, and it anchors the entire film in real, tangible emotion, not just crafted pathos.

Still, sacrifice is the main theme here – not just the cost of heroism, but the cost of being a part of a community, perhaps, and deciding what you’ll do for that place and those people. Going in, we know we’re headed for what will probably be a less than happy ending for some of our cast of characters (spoilers in that link), but that’s not the point; this isn’t about who’s going to make it through, but rather what it’s like to belong to a place, and the film delivers that feeling completely. After spending time with the Granite Mountain Hotshots, their friends and family, you’d need a particularly hard heart not to be moved by their story.

Click here for nationwide movie times for Only the Brave

  • Joachim Staats
    Joachim Staats
    29 January 2018 at 4:18 pm

    This film is brilliant, the best release of the year so far. The visuals are stunning, the acting first class and the ending credits with the photos of the dead fire fighters brings the emotion levels to maximum. This is one ocassion where Hollywood gets it 100% right at every level in telling a true life tragedy.

Leave a Reply