Only the Brave

Only the BraveDirector: Joseph Kosinski
Run Time: 2h 14m
Stars: 4.0

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.
– Thucydides

The members of the Prescott Fire Department in Arizona want so badly to be recognized as a “Hotshot” crew. None more so than their leader Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin). He recruits new members — including recovering drug-addict Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) — to get their numbers up. Then, in the late 2000’s, Marsh pulls strings and calls in favors to have his team tested. They’ve trained and trained and he knows they are ready. The test does not go as planned, but they get the call that they earned their Hotshot classification as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Then the real work begins. They travel all over, fighting fires on the front-lines. In 2013, a lightning strike ignites a fire that should be a routine walk in the park for the Hotshot teams that were called in to fight it. But the battle against nature is never certain. Things can go wrong and lives can be changed in an instant. As was the case for the 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.

Granite Mountain Hotshots

  1. Andrew Ashcraft, 29 (Alex Russell)
  2. Robert Caldwell, 23 (Dylan Kenin)
  3. Travis Carter, 31 (Scott Foxx)
  4. Dustin DeFord, 24 (Ryan Busch)
  5. Christopher MacKenzie, 30 (Taylor Kitsch)
  6. Eric Marsh, 43 (Josh Brolin)
  7. Brendan McDonough, 21 (Miles Teller)
  8. Grant McKee, 21 (Sam Quinn)
  9. Sean Misner, 26 (Kenneth Miller)
  10. Scott Norris, 28 (Thad Luckinbill)
  11. Wade Parker, 22 (Ben Hardy)
  12. John Percin Jr, 24 (Nicholas Jenks)
  13. Anthony Rose, 23 (Jake Picking)
  14. Jesse Steed, 36 (James Badge Dale)
  15. Joe Thurston, 32 (Matthew Van Wettering)
  16. Travis Turbyfill, 27 (Geoff Stults)
  17. William Warneke, 25 (Ryan Jason Cook)
  18. Clayton Whitted, 28 (Scott Haze)
  19. Kevin Woyjeck, 21 (Michael McNulty)
  20. Garret Zuppiger, 27 (Brandon Bunch)

Whenever a film attempts to tackle a true story, they have a duty to the real people it is portraying. Tell the story. Do it justice. I’d like to believe that the firefighting families in Prescott approve of Only the Brave.

Much like a military unit, this Hotshot team was a cohesive unit. A brotherhood. The actors, in my humble opinion, did an amazing job capturing that natural report among the men. James Badge Dale plays Marsh’s right-hand man, Jesse Steed. Watching Dale and Brolin together, you’d believe they have the understanding and trust of two men who have been working alongside one another for years. And while Taylor Kitsch’s Christopher MacKenzie does not like Teller’s McDonough at first, they become extremely close as the film progresses. One of my favorite scenes is when Chris and Brendan are entrusted with babysitting Brendan’s baby girl for a weekend and all hell breaks loose. From fevers to tantrums the men have no idea what to do. That is, until they realize they can call their Hotshot brothers — and their wives — to come rescue them. The heart, the comradery, and the bond are tangible among the actors and I think that’s the greatest ode they could have given.

Not to be outdone, the wives of these men are portrayed magnificently as well. Jennifer Connelly plays Amanda Marsh, Eric’s wife. Connelly’s scenes with Brolin are honest and you’ll feel as though you are watching the real couple instead of the actors playing make-believe. Connelly’s presence is a necessity and her performance is one of the best you’ll see this year.

The fire is the villain of this story. And she makes it known. Her beauty and terror reign over the Hotshots and she hates to lose. The fire is never quite romanticized, but you understand Marsh’s relationship with her. Adding to the tensions between him and Amanda, of course. But the fire is very much a character in Only the Brave, and the effects to bring her to life were splendid.

The quote mentioned above couldn’t ring truer for the men of Granite Mountain. If you do not know the real story, I actually encourage you to read up about it before watching this film. It goes against everything I usually believe when it comes to preparing for a movie, but you’ll want to break the rules for this one. Then, if your spirit can handle it, I encourage you to see a movie about true heroism.

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen very many movies about firefighters. So in an effort not to insult the trade, I will leave this suggestion section blank.


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