Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Only the Brave": one-paragraph review

Based on the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire (Arizona), 2017's "Only the Brave" is the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots as told primarily through the perspectives of firefighter newbie Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) and Hotshots superintendent ("Supe") Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin). Most of the film is devoted to introducing us to the Hotshots—the chain of command, the rivalries, the family interactions. We see Supe's often-rocky relationship with his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly); we watch as Brendan's prickly relationship with veteran Hotshot Chris "Mack" MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) turns into an actual friendship, and in the end—it's no spoiler to say this if you know the real story—we watch nineteen of the twenty Hotshots die in a blaze that went way out of control thanks to dry conditions and sudden high winds. This movie, given its stars and subject matter, has all the marks of a Peter Berg film, but it's ably directed by Joseph Kosinski, who directed "Tron: Legacy." The story is structured in such a way that we come to know and care about the crew as a whole, even if the large cast ensures we'll get to know only a few characters closely. That buildup makes all the difference because, when the end comes, it comes suddenly and cruelly, and the tragic aftermath is as gut-wrenching as the tragedy itself. I admit I shed a few tears watching this film which, despite the formulaic narrative, was telling a true story. If nothing else, "Only the Brave" will give you an idea of what it means when firefighters put their lives on the line for us regular folks.

ADDENDUM: Wikipedia says this film cost $38 million to make, but its global box office was only $23 million. That's a crying shame, in my opinion. This is a story of bravery that deserves to be told far and wide, and in a just world, the film would top the $100 million mark, with much of that money going to the bereaved families of the firefighters who perished in 2013.

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