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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: Heroes appropriately honored in "Only the Brave"

Oct 19, 2017 06:40PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Josh Brolin in Only the Brave - © 2017 Sony Pictures.

Only the Brave (Sony Pictures)

Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language and drug material.

Starring Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, Scott Haze, Alex Russell, Ben Hardy, Rachel Singer, Natalie Hall, Andie MacDowell, Geoff Stults, Jake Picking.

Written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski.



Respect and admiration of heroes is conundrum. On the one hand, real heroes sacrifice themselves for others without regard for taking credit or gaining a reward. On the other hand, it’s almost always fitting to give heroes their due. Such a group of selfless men are the subject of Only the Brave, the true story of the Granite Mountain (Prescott, Ariz.) “Hot Shots” (wild fire fighters) who fought one of the deadliest fires of the past decade.

Josh Brolin stars as Eric “Supe” Marsh, leader of the Prescott wildland fire crew. When drug addict and new father Brendan “Donut” McDonough comes looking for work, Marsh gives him a last chance. Brendan struggles at first, but eventually earns the trust of the other crew members, including Jesse (James Badge Dale) and Mack (Taylor Kitsch). Marsh wants his team to become certified as a Type One fire crew, known as “Hot Shots.” With a lot of sacrifice and behind the scenes help from Marsh’s boss and mentor Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges), the Prescott team finally gets certified, and they begin to farm themselves out to fires all across the region, earning money for their city and gaining notoriety for their heroic efforts. Their absence causes tension for their families, especially Marsh’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly).

Then, the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire comes calling on the Granite Mountain crew, with deadly results.

(I’m trying not to spoil things here, but if you were paying attention to the news four years ago or regularly use Google, you kind of already know the outcome for most of the crew)

Only the Brave is a very good film about a group of real heroes. Unlike some of the more recent over-the-top “real-life” depictions of recent events, this movie successfully draws you into the life the crew and allows the audience to become attached to their personalities and struggles. The temptation of some directors (I’m looking at you, Peter Berg and Michael Bay) is to create heroic stigma and make the real people fit their narrative. While I’m sure there were some liberties taken with the real Granite Mountain story, screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, along with director Joesph Kosinski did a very good job of finding that balance between reality and drama.

If there is a drawback to Only the Brave (oddly enough), it’s Jeff Bridges, whose role seems a little pedestrian; only there to provide moments of sage wisdom. It’s not a bad performance, but they didn’t need a heavy hitter like Bridges to play it.  

Only the Brave is worth seeing, and should be a great reminder that there are real heroes out there willing to lay their lives on the line in a world that often seems unaware of their sacrifice.

Only the Brave Trailer