Friday, October 20, 2017

Realistic firefighting sequences help carry above average ‘Only the Brave’

By Steve Crum
Two factors elevating Only the Brave above the norm are the film’s location photography and realistic forest fire sequences. A third factor is the story’s basis, the history of Prescott, Arizona’s elite firefighting squad, the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Add to that a competent ensemble cast led by Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, and Taylor Kitsch. 
The film is really a gritty, action oriented war film with battles between the courageous firemen versus the deadly flames. Taking place during 2013 and before, the focus at first is on Eric “Supe” Marsh (James Brolin) and his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly). Eric is a seasoned firefighter. He is also driven to have his unit designated “hotshots,” a moniker given to first responder, front line firemen. He knows his men are more than capable to fulfill that dangerous job. But he must first convince his good friend and mentor, Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges), to go to bat for him with the city’s mayor to financially back such a move. 
As the story unfolds, we get to know a half dozen of the squad pretty well, particularly “Donut” McDonough (Miles Teller). In fact, it’s the work of Teller that carries Only the Brave. It is his character who goes through the greatest transformation—from druggy to Hotshot. In between, his personal life is further stressed by an old girlfriend’s pregnancy. Teller does a marvelous job, and is a charismatic actor.
As referenced, Only the Brave is a war movie. Like military servicemen, the firefighters undergo their brand of basic training, which becomes a real trial for still drug recovering “Donut.” We see the men, the solders, repeatedly drilled to learn their tools of trade, essentially their weaponry—from spade diggers to flame throwers. We observe “Supe” doing the battle plan logistics…except this general leads from the front. 
There are three or four forest fire sequences before the devastating Yarnell Hill Fire that caps this 133 minute film. By that time, we better know the heroes and their waiting back home families. And that also encompasses the movie’s weakness, the script. The screenplay, while based on fact, is cliché ridden and too often predictable. Nonetheless, there are emotional portions that are heartbreakingly tearful. 
Director Joseph Kosinski’s imagery clearly outweighs Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer’s screenplay. It should be no surprise that Kosinski’s background is in computer graphics and computer generated imagery. He sure knows his stuff with digital forest fires. They look too real. 
With this summer’s wildfires still terrorizing our Pacific Northwest, Only the Brave is timely if not redundant. 
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GRADE on an A-F Scale: B

2 comments:

  1. did you teach high school in Kansas City Kansas?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes...for 35 years. Were you a student of mine?

    ReplyDelete