Only the Brave

Meadow T., Contributor

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Only the Brave

            Despite all of the out-of-this-world, sky-high, sci-fi that’s become a box office favorite, Joseph Kosinski, a science fiction director himself, decided to take a look at the real world and make a movie about it. That movie is Only the Brave, a new drama about the Arizona Granite Mountain Hotshots, who made their name by becoming the first municipal hotshot crew in the country (hotshots specialize in wildland fires’ suppression, and are the “SEAL Team Six of firefighters,” as one character in the film puts it). On June 28, 2013, a wildfire was ignited by a lightning strike near Yarnell, Arizona, which quickly spread over 8,300 acres. On June 30, The Granite Mountain crew were stationed to help mitigate the blaze, but became entrapped. 19 of the 20 members were killed, making it the highest death incident of any U.S. firefighters since the 9/11 attacks.

Only the Brave opens with Eric Marsh (played by Josh Brolin) and his small, local wildfire team helping the “real” certified team of hotshots attenuate to a forest fire. This first act of the story follows the trails of Marsh and his perseverance to get a certified hotshot team. We meet Duane Steinbrick (Jeff Bridges), a mentor of sorts for Marsh, during this period as well. Next, we are introduced to Brenden “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller), a troubled character with new responsibilities (his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his child) who decides to sign up for the crew when Marsh is finally given his chance of official evaluation.

Once certified, the second act of the film begins, where we get to witness the troubles and travails of the hotshot members, but most notably those of McDonough and Marsh. (Marsh’s wife Amanda, a horse rancher played by Jennifer Connolly, wants to have children, a predicament that was apparently settled when the couple married six years before.) I won’t describe the plot any further, for I’m sure many of you can guess how this story plays out henceforth.

Despite it following the typical action-biography structure with add-in drama, it’s a good movie. While I wish there was less energy spent on McDonough and Marsh’s character and more on the other crew members, I found no fault in the cast itself, with a particularly standout performance by Josh Brolin. Furthermore, I have to give nods to director Kosinski for not making this too Hollywood-heroistic, less exploitative and more reverent, which is why I believe it’s accessibility to a wide audience is a plus rather than a minus.

Now, for the third and final act. The ending itself makes me want to throw all my appraisals to the wind because it was one of the best, least over-sentimentalized depictions of a tragedy I’ve ever seen come from a Hollywood picture of this genre. On an individual scale, I can’t say how you, the reader, will react, but if my response has any indication, I almost cried in the theater (and to note, I never cry at the movies).

And if there is one thing I hope you all will do after seeing this film, it is this: go read an original piece about the Arizona Granite Mountain Hotshots (here or here), because if the movie didn’t clearly point it out, it is a story that deserved to be told.

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Only the Brave