Movie Review: Only the Brave

Sometimes a movie comes out at the perfect time. Northern California was devastated by wildfires this month that burned 210,000 acres and destroyed over 7,000 homes. Over 5,000 firefighters remain on the lines in California battling the fires. This year’s fire season has been one of the most destructive in recent memory and almost 9 million acres have already burned. Some of the people that fight these fires are interagency hotshot crews, or simply just “hotshots.” Hotshots are crews of firefighters specially trained in wildfire suppression tactics. This is important because the movie Only the Brave, released on October 20 and directed by Joseph Kosinski, follows the group of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that sacrificed their lives to protect others.

Only the Brave is the true story about the Granite Mountain Hotshots that sacrificed their lives during the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. The film focuses on Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), who is the supervisor of the hotshots; Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges), who is the wildland division chief for the city; and Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) who is a newbie on the crew and the only survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The first half of the film highlight the struggles of the crew trying to get certified as actual hotshots. They are only a type 2 crew which means they have to defer to type 1 crews, who are actual hotshots. The other plot focus is the personal struggles of Marsh and McDonough. This half of the film is important because it develops the viewer’s relationships with the characters and their struggles and triumphs. One example would be, McDonough’s transition from a drug addict and absent father to a valuable member of the hotshots.

The second half of the film focuses of the crew as actual hotshots and the Yarnell Hill Fire. The fire doesn’t seem to be a huge issue at the beginning of the sequence, but quickly escalates out of control. Via a series of mistakes, the crew becomes stuck in the middle of the fire without any escape route and 19 out of the 20-member crew perish. The fire became the worst loss of firefighters since 9/11.

Making a film about tragedy is never easy, but Only the Brave is a film about tragedy and people, and the technical aspects of film making. The film really creates a connection between the audience and the characters by showing the camaraderie between the crews, the struggles with family and work life balance and by showing us what real heroes are made of. The film also combines practical affects and CGI to give us realistic wildfires. Realistic wildfires help us establish and shows the risks hotshots take every day just to protect others. This film really highlights the risks of being a hotshot and might help give some proper recognition to real-life hotshots working today.

Overall, the film was very riveting and rounded out very well by staying true to the real life story of the hotshots, connecting us with the characters, showing us amazing visuals, and showing us the how hotshots really operate and the heroes that they are.  The impressive cast of the film, the fact-based story, and the tear-jerker ending, give us a film that honors the real-life heroes that sacrificed their lives to protect others.