For a re­view of “Only the Brave,”

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Joseph Kosin­ski’s “Only the Brave” is a deeply mov­ing re­count­ing of the events lead­ing up to the death of 19 fire­fight­ers, known as the Gran­ite Moun­tain Hot­shots, while try­ing to pro­tect the small town of Yar­nell, Ari­zona, in 2013. Aseries of events put the crack fire­fight­ing team in the path of a mas­sive fire that over­whelmed them, leav­ing only one sur­vivor.

“Only the Brave” is a heart touch­ing re­minder of what real he­roes look like and how they act. They can be your friends and neigh­bors who are only dif­fer­ent in howthey don’t hes­i­tate when there is a chance to help oth­ers. The loss of one such hero is a tragedy. The loss of 19 is a dev­as­tat­ing mo­ment in time that should be hon­ored with this kind of lov­ing film trib­ute.

The film fol­lows the group based in Prescott, Ari­zona, as they work their way up to be­ing the only cer­ti­fied hot­shot team to work for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The last to join the group is Bren­dan McDonough ( Miles Teller), a drug user look­ing to change his life af­ter he learns he is about to be­come a fa­ther.

Them en­train ex­cep­tion­ally hard to earn their way into the top of the fire­fight­ing hi­er­ar­chy. Kosinki shows both the ca­ma­raderie the group had plus their deep de­vo­tion to fam­ily, par­tic­u­larly through the story of the group leader, Eric “Supe” Marsh ( Josh Brolin) and his wife, Amanda( Jen­nifer Con­nelly). There’s enough de­tail about their re­la­tion­ship to drive the emo­tional tones of the dra­matic end­ing.

Con nelly turns in one of her best per­for­mances as the lov­ing wife who must deal with the fact that her hus­band spends most of the year run­ning into ar­eas where fires scorch the earth. She is con­vinc­ing both as a lov­ing and sup­port­ive spouse and as a woman who is be­ing choked by the con­stant specter of death.

It helps that she gets to share scenes with Brolin who mas­ter­fully plays the role of the group leader as both a hard­driv­ing boss and a mem­ber of the fire­fight­ing band of broth­ers who would do any­thing to pro­tect the man be­side him. Brolin han­dles the tough guy act with ease but he’s just as com­fort­able in the mo­ments with Con­nelly when he can al­low his emo­tions to show.

Equally strong is Teller, who grows with each role. His char­ac­ter ex­hibits the most growth in the group as he sweats his way to a ma­tu­rity he’s never known. Along with Brolin, the two ac­tors are the best de­vel­oped of the hot­shots.

That’s one of two prob­lems with the film. It’s im­pos­si­ble within the con­fines of a 134- minute movie to fully deal with this many char­ac­ters. Kosin­ski, work­ing from the script by Ken Nolan, is backed into a cor­ner where his only op­tion was to spot­light a few of the hot­shots and then touch on the oth­ers in pass­ing. Many of those who died had fam­i­lies but that el­e­ment is only broached in the end as the loved ones gather to get news of their hus­bands, sons and fa­thers.

Kosin­ski might have found a lit­tle more wig­gle room by cut­ting most of the scenes with Jeff Bridges, the main ad­vo­cate for the hot­shots. The char­ac­ter of­fers lit­tle to ad­vance the story and a scene with his play­ing with a lo­cal bar band comes across as more of a gim­mick than be­ing nec­es­sary.

The other prob­lem is the tim­ing. Movies like “Pa­tri­ots Day” and “The 33” have been based on in­ci­dents that oc­curred in the last seven years. When mak­ing amovie based on a dra­matic true event, there is a fine line be­tween enough time elaps­ing to show a proper re­spect to the real peo­ple but not wait­ing so long that the story is a blip in his­tory. This film feels like it was made so quickly that the dra­ma­tized tale is hav­ing to com­plete with the un­for­get­table real events.

But in this world where re­al­ity rules, this kind of pro­duc­tion will be the norm un­til the time gap is so short that it’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how long it takes for a film to be made on the re­cent Las Ve­gas mas­sacre.

What cush­ions the time­line sit­u­a­tion with “Only the Brave” are the strong per­for­mances by Brolin, Con­nelly and Teller cou­pled with amovie that so vividly recre­ates the world of hot­shot fire­fight­ers you can al­most feel the heat com­ing off the screen.

And, the movie also fea­tures a beau­ti­ful song over the cred­its, “Hold the Light,” per­formed by Dierks Bentley. The Ari­zona na­tive’s tune is by far the best orig­i­nal song in a fea­ture film this year and should not be over­looked by those putting to­gether the Os­car nom­i­na­tions.

These el­e­ments are strong enough to eclipse any writ­ing and tim­ing quib­bles and make “Only the Brave” work both as an ac­tion- filled drama and as a fit­ting sa­lute to 19 he­roes.

“Only The Brave,” a Sony Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for the­matic con­tent, sex­ual ref­er­ences, drug use and lan­guage. Run­ning time: 134 min­utes.

“The Florida Project”

' The Florida Project," Sean Baker's ex­u­ber­ant, un­govern­able ode to the in­no­cence and re­silience of child­hood, takes place in a ram­shackle laven­der- painted ho­tel called the Magic Cas­tle, hard by Or­lando's Dis­ney World. Along with its neigh­bor­ing oxy­moron­i­cally named fleabags, the Magic Cas­tle evokes the Amer­i­can Dream, while deny­ing it at ev­ery down­beat, thread­bare turn. It's Amer­i­can Dream- ad­ja­cent, with such mid­dle- class ad­van­tages as fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity, leisure and cozy do­mes­tic sta­bil­ity tan­ta­liz­ingly vis­i­ble but al­ways just out of reach.

But that doesn't mean that the mar­gins don't pos­sess their share of en­chant­ment. As "The Florida Project" opens, its spir­ited 6- year- old pro­tag­o­nist, Moonee ( newcomer Brook­lynn Prince), is busy lead­ing her friends on a game of may­hem and mis­chief through­out the stucco com­plex, which serves as cheap hous­ing for her young mother, Hal­ley ( Bria Vi­naite), and a hand­ful of folks who are strug­gling with ad­dic­tion, home­less­ness, men­tal ill­ness or sim­ple bad luck.

It's a harsh, hard scrabble life, but Baker is de­ter­mined to in­fuse it with won­der and its own brand of pro­fane dig­nity. An in­de­pen­dent, pre­co­cious heroine in the tra­di­tion of Scout in "To Kill a Mock­ing­bird," Moonee nav­i­gates cir­cum­stances not of her mak­ing, but ones she none­the­less makes her own by way of fan­tasies, games and the oc­ca­sional sweet- faced pan­han­dling gam­bit to cadge some ice cream from un­sus­pect­ing tourists.

Baker, whose break­out 2015 film "Tan­ger­ine" was filmed en­tirely on an iPhone, here trades that mod­est plat­form for lush 35mm film, fash­ion­ing a big, bright, im­prob­a­bly op­ti­mistic- look­ing can­vas for a story steeped in heart­break. The volatile, un­re­li­able Hal­ley, who re­sorts to pros­ti­tu­tion when she can't make the Magic Cas­tle's weekly rent, is lit­tle more than a kid her­self. Moonee's street hus­tles and street- urchin scams may look adorably spunky now, but they sug­gest a far less rosy fu­ture down the road.

Baker doesn't su­per­im­pose those judg­ments. In­stead, he presents "The Florida Project" as a re­spect­ful glimpse of a part of con­tem­po­rary life that is of­ten in­vis­i­ble to main­stream so­ci­ety. While the im­pulse is ad­mirable, it re­sults in a film that veers dan­ger­ously close to the kind of aes­theti­cized poverty porn that be­dev­iled such sim­i­lar en­ter­prises as "Beasts of the South­ern Wild" and "Amer­i­can Honey."

And, too of­ten, Baker over di­rects Prince, Hal­ley and their fel­low young cast mem­bers, most of whom are non­pro­fes­sional ac­tors and whose per­for­mances are so keyed- up and the­atri­cal that the viewer can al­most hear the di­rec­tor ask­ing for an­other take, only this time with more. That over-the- top­ness stands in par­tic­u­larly un­flat­ter­ing re­lief com­pared to "The Florida Project's" most rev­e­la­tory mo­ments, which be­long to Willem Dafoe, who plays the Magic Cas­tle's pa­tient, gen­tly pa­ter­nal­is­tic man­ager Bobby.

Although Moonee is the nom­i­nal heroine of "The Florida Project," it's Bobby who emerges as the in­de­fati­ga­ble moral cen­ter of amovie that pulses with life, if not hope. Dafoe de­liv­ers his finest per­for­mance in re­cent mem­ory, bring­ing to lev­el­headed, un­sanc­ti­mo­nious life a char­ac­ter who of­fers a glim­mer of hope and car­ing within a world marked ly short on both.

“The Florida Project,” a Cre Films re­lease, is rated R for pro­fan­ity, dis­turb­ing be­hav­ior, sex­ual ref­er­ences and some drug ma­te­rial. Run­ning time :115 min­utes.


Willem Dafoe, left, and Brook­lynn Prince star in “The Florida Project.”

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