Although it looks like your average commercial summer blockbuster, Only the Brave is a different beast altogether. Based on the true story of Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of firefighters, and their bravery, it’s a movie that will leave a lasting impression on you. I know it did on me, and I still remember it vividly, almost five years after I saw it for the first time. Probably because I never heard of the Yarnell Hill Fire. As always, please read about what happened after the movie is over to avoid any spoilers.
Movies about firefighters always fascinated me. I remember watching Backdraft back in the nineties and thinking just how crazy these fuckers are. I mean, their job is to inside burning buildings and rescue people! It takes a certain kind of man to do something like that. And they are quite different from police officers or soldiers. Although the movie itself does have a structure of a war movie. Complete with an outsider looking to turn his life around. The most important thing to note here is that all of this is based on true events.
Only the Brave is technically a disaster movie although it’s not like any disaster movie I ever saw. It’s more subtle, intelligent and focused on the characters. This doesn’t mean we won’t get those mind-blowing scenes of destruction because we certainly will. It’s just that they will be secondary to camaraderie and personal drama. I loved this approach, without any sensationalism that ruined so many other, similar movies. And unlike other movies about firefighters, this one takes place in the open. Now, I’m yet to check out Those Who Wish Me Dead starring Angelina Jolie, although that’s more of a crime thriller than a movie about firefighters it seems.
Welcome to Prescott, Arizona, a place where the soon-to-be legendary Fire and Rescue Crew 7 is headquartered. Led by experienced Eric Marsh, they are a group of elite firefighters controlling and subduing large forest fires all across the US. Only the best of the best can make it in this squad of tough men and young Brendan McDonough wants in on this. He’s a troublemaker looking to turn his life around after the birth of his daughter. After arduous training, he’s finally accepted and heads out with the crew to work on a huge fire that just broke out…
The cast of Only the Brave was simply amazing. Miles Teller was the perfect choice for the role of Brendan and I have to admit that he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. Do check him out in Too Old to Die Young television miniseries to see his full range. And I don’t need to tell you that veterans Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, and Jennifer Connelly did a terrific job. Especially Brolin who carried this movie on his broad fucking shoulders.
Although the stunning New Mexico and Arizona scenery was almost like another actor here. The cinematography was stellar so you feel like you’re watching a BBC documentary about the natural beauty of these regions. And the special effects felt very believable and natural. They enabled us to see the sheer scale of destruction that wildfires can cause. The opening scenes of Only the Brave are stuff of fucking nightmares, reminiscent of the French hills of Lorraine, known as Bois Brûlé, or the burnt woods. The only difference is that they were burnt by the intense fighting during WWI.
Finally, I just want to say that the events we saw in this movie are bound to happen again. As we enter the new age of environmental disasters, extreme weather will cause more and more destruction. Just something to keep in mind as we brace for all the other man-made catastrophes that await us. If you want a taste of those, do check out Deepwater Horizon, another disaster movie also based on true events.
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Sean Flynn, Ken Nolan, Eric Warren Singer
Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch
Fun Facts: Real-life Granite Mountain Hotshot Brandon Bunch plays the character of Garret Zuppiger, his friend and fellow hotshot .