ONLY THE BRAVE —–excellent true-life story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of front-line forest fire fighters who operated out of Prescott, Arizona for several years until a tragedy overtook them in 2013. “Hotshots” fight fires with fire instead of water, and the 2017 film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, gives a vivid idea what that sort of gutsy endeavor entails. *
“If you’re looking for sympathy, the only place you’re going to find it is in the dictionary, somewhere between shit and syphilis.”
Josh Brolin does his usual sturdy job as Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Prescott-based Fire and Rescue Crew 7, and Jeff Bridges does yeoman duty as city fire chief Duane Steinbrink. Jennifer Connelly lends her special soulfulness to her portrait of Eric’s wife Amanda (she and Brolin mesh well), while Miles Teller enacts the outfit’s new recruit, Brendan McDonough, who has to show he’s got the right stuff to not just face the flames but overcome the habits and stigma of his hell-bound lifestyle. Time to man up.
The personal stories are smartly handled, and the action elements of dueling with capricious infernos are very effectively recreated. It’s the kind of story made for going overboard with gung-ho cheerleading and drippy sentiment: this avoids those traps and emerges with honor. Critically applauded, the $38,000,000 production unfortunately failed at the box-office, 103rd place for the year, with an international gross of only $25,800,000, though another $7,877,000 came in via disc sales.
Shot in New Mexico in spots around Sante Fe and Los Alamos, it runs 133 minutes, with Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill and Natalie Hall. Andie MacDowell has a tiny part, with barely anything to do. Script was written by Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle).
* Modern audiences are more likely familiar with the popular 1991 firemen flick Backdraft or 2004’s likewise successful Ladder 49. They dealt with urban firefighting. The mediocre 1968 John Wayne vehicle Hellfighters showcased spectacular oil well infernos. For forest-fire danger like Only The Brave, old-timers might reach back to 1952 and Red Skies Of Montana, with Richard Widmark and some pretty wild blazes.