Only the Brave
No one would be blamed for assuming that Only the Brave was another big-budget, brain-dead disaster movie. They would also be forgiven for believing it’s another example of Hollywood exploiting harrowing true stories for money and Oscar nominations. But they would be wrong.
Only the Brave follows a group of skilled fire fighters in Prescott, Arizona, where the surrounding forests are susceptible to wildfires. We follow their journey into being Hotshots, an elite level in fire-fighting, leading to the tragic events of the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
The film could’ve easily been offensive, following the trend and organising the entire story around the disaster – bloated with tedious action scenes and oversaturated CGI. But the movie is approached with respect and maturity, placing an unusually heavy emphasis on character instead of event. Screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer escape the trap of exploitation by delaying the Yarnell Hill Fire until the end, after enjoying two hours loving and laughing with the fire fighters. With director Joseph Kosinski, they’ve produced a poignant memorial piece for the Granite Mountain Hotshots – 19 of whom lost their lives.
Miles Teller is unrecognisable as Brendan McDonough (“Donut”), who evolves beautifully from druggie disappointment to heroic Hotshot. Teller delivers a rite-of-passage performance with realistic precision, securing his place as one of Hollywood’s latest character-actors. It’s impossible for viewers to keep their eyes off him. The cast is largely male, giving way to some alpha-male antics, but these are suppressed to perfection and don’t rely on crude jokes. This limits the roles for women, but Jennifer Connelly’s emotional performance makes her more memorable than Josh Brolin or Jeff Bridges. She even competes with Teller.
The trailers and posters advertise Only the Brave as another piece of sentimental Hollywood trash, but appearances are deceptive. There are some clichés and cheesy lines, but they’re brief and often feel appropriate. Kosinski limits the CGI and Claudio Miranda’s cinematography boasts a natural beauty. Only the Brave is a funny, emotional, character-driven drama that lingers painfully like a skin-burn. Bring tissues.
Only the Brave is released nationwide on 10th November 2017.
Watch the trailer for Only the Brave here: