ONLY THE BRAVE (M) Director: Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) Starring: Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly. Rating:
IN Only the Brave, we experience the gripping true story of one of the deadliest wildfires in US history: the Yarnell Hill blaze that hit in Western Arizona in July 2013.
As many bushland regions right around Australia brace themselves for another summer where fires will be an ever-present danger, the release of this movie could not be any more timely. Just as importantly, Only the Brave serves as a welcome reminder that we should never take for granted the efforts of those who put themselves between the flames and our homes without a second thought.
However, this isn’t merely an exercise in backslapping for a job well done. The movie also delivers a deeper, nuanced study of the fine art of firefighting — particularly in open country — than ever seen before. Unlike most conventional tales of heroism on the big screen, Only the Brave will not be rushed getting to Yarnell Hill incident, a cataclysm that spawned several sobering cases of genuine bravery and great sacrifice. Unusually, the filmmakers go out of their way to humbly humanise as many of its characters as possible.
Not just the celebrated members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots — the first rural firefighting crew in America ever licensed to tackle major-category blazes — but also their family and friends. A superb ensemble cast led by Josh Brolin (the unconventional leader of the Granite Mountain outfit), Jeff Bridges (a longtime mentor to the team), Miles Teller (a former drug addict rising through the ranks with aplomb) and Taylor Kitsch (not happy to have an ex-junkie at his side) all pull together without any showboating whatsoever.
By the time the natural disaster of Yarnell Hill is ramping up, both the risks facing these men and the fears eating away at their loved ones have been soulfully brought to the fore.
While this means the pacing can be overly sluggish at times, the final impact of Only the Brave courses far deeper than this type of fare usually can. If you are unfamiliar with what ultimately transpired up there on Yarnell Hill, don’t hunt around online for any hints. The frightening last act of the movie will become all the more powerful for those experiencing it ‘in the moment.’
Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) in Only the Brave