Only the Brave (2017)
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski | 133 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Andie MacDowell, Geoff Stults, Alex Russell, Thad Luckinbill, Ben Hardy, Scott Haze, Jake Picking, Scott Foxx, Dylan Kenin, Ryan Michael Busch, Kenneth Miller, Ryan Jason Cook, Brandon Bunch
Large forest fires can cause enormous damage to nature, but they also increasingly pose a threat to humans. In America, wildfires are more common than ever and residents in arid states like Texas and Arizona have become accustomed to the constant threat. For the fire brigade it is usually a huge task to keep fires of this size under control. A group of firefighters, The Granite Mountain Hotshots, made headlines several years ago after a very tragic operation. A story that cries out for a film adaptation, which came in the form of ‘Only the Brave’.
The film opens with a wildfire in which a huge bear emerges from the flames. It turns out to be a recurring dream of Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), the leader of a local group of firefighters. His group has been fighting for years to be promoted to ‘hotshots’: certified firefighters who can fully participate in rescue operations. With the help of local official Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges), the men try to finally be recognized as hotshots. In addition to this storyline, we get an insight into the lives of some firefighters. This follows Eric’s turbulent relationship with his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) and we meet Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller), a junkie who wants to fight his way back into society with his work in the group after he unexpectedly becomes a father. has become.
While the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots may be familiar to many people because it took place several years ago, it would be a shame to reveal more about the plot. ‘Only the Brave’ is simply too good for that. Director Joseph Kosinski (‘Oblivion’) manages to capture themes such as comradeship and sacrifice in a catchy way and shows what the suffocating impact this work can have on the family lives of the group members. Yet Kosinski does not always succeed in dancing around the clichés: scenes in which random characters emphasize once again that the hotshots are real heroes feel a bit forced.
What helps is that the film has a very nice cast. Josh Brolin knows how to carry the film effortlessly and is perfect for the role of the somewhat gruff leader who takes care of his group like a father. Jeff Bridges has a fairly small role, but as always is engaging. While perhaps a bit underused, Bridges manages to impress again with a single expression of emotion towards the end of the film. It is a moment when the macho behavior that predominates in the rest of the film gives way to pure emotion, played formidably by Bridges. Miles Teller’s character is a bit difficult at first, but as soon as he gets a little more to do than walk around high, Teller knows how to make his character more and more his own and eventually win over the viewer.
It would be too easy to just call ‘Only the Brave’ an entertaining heroic epic. The ending, in which a big punch in the stomach of the viewer is dealt, is also too strong for that. Especially if you are not familiar with the story of the Granite Mountain Hotspots, the film is more than worth watching. It is commendable that Kosinski did not opt for fast cuts: the film has a fairly calm build-up, so that the focus is mainly on character development. It is therefore certainly to the credit of Kosinski that the film works well on almost every level. The images of the wildfires are breathtaking, all the characters are ‘real’ people of flesh and blood and the film hardly ever falls into simple entertainment. The fact that the story is also largely based on true events makes the film all the more impressive. In America, the film was not a great success, partly due to poor marketing and stiff competition. A shame, because ‘Only the Brave’ is definitely worth a visit to the cinema. A strong film that you cannot easily let go of afterwards.