Only the Brave, B
Rated PG-13, 132 minutes
"Only the Brave" is a powerful, heartbreaking film about a real-life group of firefighters in Arizona. Familiar and earnest, it's also a heartfelt tribute to the men who lost their lives fighting deadly wildfires in the desert.
The film tells the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, one of the most elite firefighting teams in the country. The Hotshots, an elite, brave group who fight wildfires. They're led by the stalwart Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and includes a diverse array of men, including recovering addict Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), swinging single Chris Mackenzie (Taylor Kitsch) and family man Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale). They're all put to the test with the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire, which proves to be tragic for the close knit group.
The compelling, honorable drama "Only the Brave" pulls few surprises and goes on a little too long, but it's also an unforgettable, albeit painful look at the price the firefighters pay in the work they do. "Brave" is directed by "Tron: Legacy's" Joseph Kosinski and co-written by Ken Nolan ("Black Hawk Dawn") and Eric Warren Singer ("American Hustle"), based on a GQ article called "No Exit" by Sean Flynn, which detailed the group's efforts.
"Only the Brave" benefits most from solid storytelling and a terrific cast, led by Brolin in a solid turn as the group's leader (or superintendent as they're called) Marsh, Teller as a junkie who's trying to turn his life around, Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges as one of the town's leaders, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly as Marsh's wife. James Badge Dale ("The Walk") and Taylor Kitsch ("The Assassin") also appear as a couple of the firefighters.
As inspiring as "Only the Brave" is, it's not perfect. The second act could've been trimmed, and while the script wisely focuses on just a couple of the firefighters' stories (there were 20 in total), we don't get a chance to see who they really were. Given the subject matter, it also brims with a strong sense of earnestness, which is forgiven until the tragic ending in which only one of the firefighters survive (and note, he's one of the top-billed actors).
"Only the Brave" is inspiring entertainment: a satisfying, moving film (and relevant given the California fires which are still burning) and this year's "Deepwater Horizon." Stay for the end credits as the film honors each of the men who perished, a heartfelt tribute that will prompt the need for tissues. As Joe Biden best put it, "All men are created equal. But then, a few became firefighters." These men actually lived it. If nothing else, go see it to honor their memory.