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Only the Brave

Only the Brave: Star-Studded Cast Carries Real-Life Story of Heroism

  • Jeff BridgesJosh Brolin...
  • Action & AdventureDrama
  • Joseph Kosinski
reviewed by
Marija Djurovic
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Only the Brave: Star-Studded Cast Carries Real-Life Story of Heroism

Stupendously grounded and beautifully human, Only the Brave is the latest from sci-fi director Joseph Kosinski – see Oblivion, Tron: Legacy – who steps away from complex and multifaceted outer-space-world-building to centre on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots; a skilled group of firefighters who bravely fought in the frontlines of the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona back in June 2013 with a wildfire which was later categorised as the third deadliest in U.S history.


The story is cantered on Eric Marsh (portrayed by the always-magnificent Josh Brolin); a long-standing member of the Prescott fire department in Arizona who has been trying for quite some time to acquire an elite ‘Hotshot’ classification for his crew of wildland firefighters; a ranking that will allow him and his men to fight in the front lines. However, securing that position is not an easy feat which frustrates Eric and as a result, continues to put a strain on his marriage with wife, Amanda (Connelly equally biting).


With support from his boss, Duane (the beardless but not any less captivating Jeff Bridges), Eric is soon given a shot to prove himself. Looking to recruit extra men in order to strengthen the ranks, Eric soon welcomes new trainee, Brenden McDonough (Teller getting better and better with each given role); an ex-junkie who is looking to give his life meaning now that he has become a father of a beautiful baby girl. Impressed with the young man’s determination, Brendan is soon accepted to join other firefighters, which also include Chris MacKenzie (Kitsch) who, after a series of exhausting and challenging training sessions, soon receive their well-deserved placing as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.


There is something beautifully grounded and maybe even old-fashioned in the way Only the Brave is constructed.  This is not a large-and-heavy disaster film – a la Dante’s Peak or San Andreas – so if this is your expectation, you are better off looking elsewhere. This is a purposeful, sincere and a soulful tale of brotherhood, loyalty and bravery, told through the eyes of men who are ready to risk it all for the greater good. Penned by Ken Nolan and Eric Singer – writers of Black Hawk Down and American Hustle respectively – and based in part on Sean Flynn’s 2013’s GQ article titled No Exit, the story – although filled with plenty of fiery action – mainly stays focused on the characters within the blaze, with Eric – a weathered veteran who has devoted his life to preserving nature and saving lives – and Brenden – a screw-up seeking redemption – remaining as the story’s focal point.


This quasi father-son dynamic is where most of the complexity lies with both actors delivering an outstanding and most importantly, convincing turn whilst Eric’s relationship at home with Amanda, is equally poignant with Connelly managing to add depth and character to what is usually seen as an underwritten part.


The cinematography, as envisioned by Claudio Miranda, is equally serving to the story, with the acclaimed cinematographer capturing the dusty landscapes with both fear and beauty at every turn. Bursting with testosterone, Only the Brave is not without faults, but it still manages to deliver what it promises; a straightforward but an intensely moving and an emotionally-gratifying tale of a courage which ultimately serves as a heroic tribute to the thousands of men who continue to risk their own lives in order to save others.

Like This? Try

Ladder 49 (2004), Backdraft (1991), Fireproof (2008)

360 Tip

In order to prepare for her role, the committed Jennifer Connelly actually managed spent some quality time with the real Amanda Marsh.

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