Sometimes in saluting the courage and bravery of our military troops, or first responders, or whoever, the specifics of the icons and their accomplishments tend to get lost in the shuffle.
Only the Brave conveys authenticity by recognizing everyday heroism in terms of what its true-life subjects do in the face of great danger, but also what it means behind the scenes.
More of a character-based drama than a traditional disaster flick, the film takes a familiar approach yet offers a timely tribute by putting a human face on those who combat rural wildfires.
Specifically, it chronicles the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Arizona, a team whose expertise lies specifically in large-scale outdoor fires. Eric (Josh Brolin) is their demanding and strong-willed leader trying to get more resources for his ragtag unit. His efforts are backed by both his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and the county fire chief (Jeff Bridges).
Eventually, they earn respect through hard work and sometimes unconventional strategy. Then their skill and resilience, and their willingness to potentially make the ultimate sacrifice, are tested during the Yarnell Hill Fire, a 2013 inferno that became one of the most deadly in recent American history.
The film not only captures its setting in the harsh Arizona summer, but also gives context to the role of a hotshot team in preserving the landscape. The screenplay focuses much of its attention on the macho camaraderie of the firefighters, the physical and tactical preparation required, or the strain such a job places on young families.
Indeed, the exposition tends to go overboard, and the film is formulaic in some of its broad characterizations, which is what happens when you try to condense the stories of more than a dozen crew members into a single feature.
Although it lacks diversity, the talented ensemble cast — including Miles Teller, James Badge Dale, and Taylor Kitsch — helps to bring context to the flawed but fiercely loyal characters and their motives. Even if we aren’t convinced about why they do it, we certainly know how, thanks to a well-researched script that knows the lingo.
As directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), the action sequences capture both the beauty and spectacle of these large-scale fires, as well as the inherent wide-ranging dangers.
Only the Brave should resonate with moviegoers in wildfire hotbeds while providing some powerful insight for the rest of us.