Magazine article Variety

Only the Brave

Magazine article Variety

Only the Brave

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

Only the Brave

Director: Joseph Kosiński

Starring: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly

When a forest catches fire, professionals can't drown it in water or put it out as they might a burning building. Instead, the goal is to contain the inferno by establishing a control line that the advancing flames cannot cross - a strategy of "fighting fire with fire" that falls to an elite hand crew, who've been uniquely certified as "hotshots" to approach the unpredictable beast.

"Only the Brave" is the true story of one such crew, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and their journey from being a local Arizona firefighting team to the front lines of the Yarnell Hill Fire, one of the country's deadliest wildfires. Like "Backdraft" set against a backdrop of unspoiled American wilderness, it's a gripping and powerfully emotional portrait of yee-haw heroism, pitting a squad of cocky, calendar-purdy white dudes against an adversary with no creed or color, just an unquenchable appetite for destruction.

Like Michael Bay before him, hypervisual director Joseph Kosinski ("Tron: Legacy," "Oblivion") hails from the world of commercials, and though he doesn't suffer from Bay's attention-deficit style, "Only the Brave" packs the same highpolish recruitment-spot feel witnessed in such high-testosterone servicemen salutes as "Patriots Day" and "13 Hours." Still, while proud of its subject, it's no mere propaganda, and though undeniably spectacular in its devastation, the film offers more depth than your typical disaster movie. As written by Ken Nolan (best known for adapting "Blackhawk Down," working here from Sean Flynn's GQ article), the script divides its time almost ч- equally between wildland blazes and domestic drama - it humanizes even as it valorizes.

Led by rawhide local fire chief Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin, giving his best Tommy Lee Jones impersonation) and balanced by the ex-junkie recruit to whom he offers a second chance (another fine performance from the versatile Miles Teller), these are imperfect heroes, struggling with relatable problems.

The film begins at a point when Marsh's team is still doing Type 2 fire mitigation duty, clearing brush and burning fire lines relatively far from the danger itself. An early scene, in which the lead crews ignore Marsh's prediction that the massive Cave Creek Complex Wildfire would turn and consume a nearby residential area, tragically illustrates why this gruff alpha personality ought to be leading the fight rather than doing cleanup duty behind hotshots. …

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