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Only the Brave – Movie Review

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Only the Brave – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Joseph Kosinski is one of the most brilliant visual minded directors working today, as proven by his science-fiction accomplishments Tron: Legacy and Oblivion. Only the Brave is proof he can step outside of that box and make a film in a more realistic setting. In tackling the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Kosinski is completely respectful to the families of the fire fighters and allows us to care about these brave men and what they had to do. Most of the film is merely about getting to know them and how they sought to protect their hometown from this raging inferno of nature.

With twenty Hotshots at the centre, Kosinski and credited screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer decide to primarily focus on three of them. Miles Teller provides a strong turn as the rookie, trying to change his life for the better. It’s a believable rise and one does root for him, especially with a daughter he clearly loves. Josh Brolin’s superintendent faces his own challenges and the film thankfully doesn’t push his wife aside. Only the Brave continually cuts to her as she deals with the fear of losing her husband to the flames one day. Taylor Kitsch plays the more boisterous Hotshot, but he’s also given the proper humanity and a solid bond with Teller.

The decision to Hollywood-ize the story and turn this into an action spectacle would have been an easy one, especially with a director known for visual flair and energetic set-pieces. Thankfully, Only the Brave is primarily a character piece. It sucks one into the town and properly shows the dangers these fire fighters find themselves facing. This is what allows the film to hold our attention. These feel like real people, doing their jobs and wanting to help their families and the community at large. They understand the risks and how important their training is. One wants to actually hang out with the Hotshots and trade small talk. Kosinski captures that communal feeling of being in a small town.

When the fires start going out of control in the third act, Kosinski again avoids going for obvious Hollywood tropes. The screenplay cleverly teaches us elements about the necessities of the job early on that eventually pay off later. Kosinski also avoids any level of schmaltziness. The emotions in the film are earned and aren’t poking the audience to force tears. Anyone familiar with the true story will know it takes a sad turn and Only the Brave doesn’t overdo the shift towards those moments. The filmmakers clearly had a lot of sympathy towards the families and the Hotshots and sought to tell their story in the most respectful manner possible.

Only the Brave tackles this tough material in the best way it possibly could. Those looking for a proper tribute to these incredible fire men will definitely find that here. The film feels genuine and while a couple of major visual effects show up, one wouldn’t call this an effects film. The film also shows Joseph Kosinski can move beyond his comfort zone. His science-fiction works are spectacular, but it’s a good thing he won’t necessarily be pigeon holed into that box for his entire career. Three films in, he has more than proven his impressive talents and Hollywood should be knocking down his door with script offers.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison