Only the Brave

 

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A profoundly moving disaster movie about the people trained to prevent catastrophe - 

based on real events.

 

Only the Brave

 

The brave in question are the firefighters stationed in Prescott, Arizona. They are a tight-knit group, led by the burly, paternal Eric Marsh who is determined that one day his men will be recognised as legitimate “hotshots”, not just the “fuels mitigation crew” that paves the way for the real firefighters. Marsh knew that his boys were more than capable and he was bent on enabling them front-line access to the major fires – and the wage packet to match.

 

Initially, Joseph Kosinski’s film is a slow-burn, but its attention to the detail of firefighting – the strategy and techniques used to frustrate a potential inferno – is more than enough. And we are in good company with Josh Brolin, as solid a leading man as there is out there: muscular, dependable and, when the need calls, vulnerable. When his Eric Marsh surveys an Arizona mountainside, he doesn’t see the beauty of the outdoors – he just sees fuel. Fuel for a potential catastrophe. He is married to Amanda, a strong-willed beauty who resents his long hours but who shares his sense of civic duty and dry humour. As played by Jennifer Connelly, Amanda is an appealing and multi-layered character and she and Eric could have happily occupied a movie to themselves. As it is, Only the Brave is an ensemble piece based on the real-life ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’.

 

There is something ineffably moving about the “I’ve got your back” team drama that accentuates the humanity between men who play tough but are united by a common goal to serve the greater good. While thematically falling within the milieu of the disaster movie, the film’s concerns with comradeship, family, community and redemption elevates it to another level. And these characters are based on real people, including the fish-out-of-water Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a former pothead and petty thief who is taken under Marsh’s wing. What the film does is make us care for its dramatis personae.

 

The script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer is not exempt from a certain formula in the telling, of some unnecessary exposition and the odd improbable line of dialogue, but it has the maturity to build its mise en scène with gritty diligence. The tension between Eric and Amanda is believable and while Brendan at first feels like a cipher, Miles Teller is good enough an actor to invest him eventually with a disarming charm. Ultimately, the film is a story of community, and of a community within a community, and in the process proves to be something of an education about those who have to learn to live with the daily threat of a terrible destruction: the amoral, unreasoning and merciless bushfire.

 

P.S. The actor who plays the town mayor really is called Forrest Fyre.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, Geoff Stults, Alex Russell, Thad Luckinbill, Ben Hardy, Natalie Hall, Rachel Singer, Forrest Fyre, Josh Hopkins, Pell James.

 

Dir Joseph Kosinski, Pro Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Michael Menchel, Dawn Ostroff, Molly Smith and Jeremy Steckler, Screenplay Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, Ph Claudio Miranda, Pro Des Kevin Kavanaugh, Ed Billy Fox, Music Joseph Trapanese, Costumes Louise Mingenbach.

 

Black Label Media/Di Bonaventura Pictures/Condé Nast Entertainment-Lionsgate.

133 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 10 November 2017. Cert. 12A.