Back Rowe Reviews
Real Time Movie Reviews from the Back Row of a Theater

November 2017

Only the Brave (PG-13)

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Josh Brolin
October 2017

What follows is the full-length review based on comments that were originally tweeted in Real-time from the back row of a movie theater @BackRoweReviews. Though efforts were made to tease rather than ruin this movie’s memorable lines and moments, some spoilers may exist in the following evaluation. For concerns over objectionable content, please first refer to one of the many parental movie guide websites. Ratings are based on a four star system. Happy reading!

Like many based-on-a-true-story films, Only the Brave suffers from an ironic dichotomy—our familiarity with the firefighter film (Backdraft, Ladder 49, etc.) ignites our interest in seeing it, but our knowledge of the actual account (or educated guess based on viewing the trailer) renders the story more than a little predictable. However, there are some decent character moments in the film: particularly Brendan McDonough’s (Miles Teller) inspirational recovery from a drug addiction and Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) and Amanda Marsh’s (Jennifer Connelly) struggles in dealing with Eric’s dangerous job and his unwillingness to have kids. The subplot of how Eric’s crew becomes (through rigorous training and physical fitness) the first municipal fire department in the U.S. to be certified as Hotshots is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film. Sadly, most of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, save for James Badge Dale’s Jesse Steed and Taylor Kitsch’s Christopher MacKenzie, are given cursory character development (aside from cursing a blue string and making crass jokes) and are nothing more than set dressing. Jeff Bridges and Andie MacDowell have a few meaningful scenes but, sadly, only serve an ancillary function in the story. The blazing infernos are both star of the movie and unpredictable, all-consuming villain. The movie’s visual effects are exceptional—never do we sense that we’re looking at CG flames or plumes of smoke. Though purely perceptual, it’s almost possible to feel heat radiating from the screen when a wall of flame rapidly advances on the firefighters. These scenes are terrifying and trilling all at the same time. If the film has a downside it’s the ending, which stays just this side of being schmaltzy. Some scenes are played for emotional effect, like when Brendan insists on going to the gym after the fateful fire. Since the word has gotten out that there was only one survivor, Brendan’s appearance effectively crushes the hopes of the other Hotshot wives (and Brendan’s wife isn’t even among the community members keeping vigil for the firefighters…contrived). Despite its inevitable outcome, shallow characterizations and miscues during the denouement, Brave is a quality entertainment and a sobering reminder of how selfless firefighters throw themselves into harm’s way to protect us and nature. May we never forget the sacrifice of these fallen heroes.