Biography Drama

'Only the Brave' Film Review: An emotional drama about real-life heroes and their humanity

October 20, 2017Britany Murphy

Focused on the inspiring and poignant true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots forest firefighting team, Only the Brave delves deep into the humanity of those who risk their lives for the safety of others. Through the film, we truly see that these courageous individuals view their duty as more than just a job. To them, it is a way of life — essentially, they are a family with an unbreakable bond.

With director Joseph Kosinski at the helm, Only the Brave is a well-paced drama with some epic action rolled in. We get to learn about the backstories of the main characters in a way that is very organic, beginning with Supervisor Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) — or "Supe," as he's known to his colleagues — getting a call about a new bout of forest fires. As Eric prepares for what is sure to be a rough ride ahead, we meet his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), and the banter between the pair will have viewers feeling like a fly-on-the-wall in their relationship.

Before long, Eric is heading out to the station, picking up some of his fellow firefighters along the way, including his second-in-command, Jesse Steed (William Badge Dale), and a sleeping Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch). Soon, Eric meets up with the rest of his 20-man team (among them, Chronicle's Alex Russell and X-Men: Apocalypse's Ben Hardy) to discuss the strategy for the impending job. As they literally fight fire with fire, there is a lot that can go wrong. Still, Eric believes in his team and their abilities to get the job done flawlessly.

Screenwriters' Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer's script follows the team through their rigorous training, some fun-filled parties that are rife with comedic moments, and family drama that revolves around not only Eric and Amanda, but also the battle with alcohol addiction being fought by Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller). A former convict struggling to regain his sobriety after he learns that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his baby, Brendan is in desperate need for one more shot at life, and Eric is the one to give it to him.

Slowly, yet purposefully, the story leads up to that fateful day in 2013, when the crew is called in to put a stop to a massive blaze burning out of control in Yarnell Hill, Arizona. By this point, we've already grown to know these characters well. And as the fire changes course and rapidly grows to become worse than they ever expected, we watch as they bravely put their lives on the line to save those of the townspeople who now find themselves in the fiery path of one of the most volatile forest fires to ever ravage the United States.

The result is an emotional roller coaster ride full of touching, funny and frequently tear-jerking moments that truly capture the sense of family and camaraderie between the men that comprise the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Factor in the powerful performances by Brolin, Teller and Connelly especially, and it's hard to divert your gaze away from this perfect ode to the bravery of these real-life, everyday heroes.

Only the Brave releases October 20th, 2017 from Columbia Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language and drug material. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 13 min.

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