Only the Brave is an absolutely harrowing tale about the Granite Mountain Hotshots and the tragedy that occurred during the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
What caught my attention about this film right away was not the actors or the story itself, but rather, the man at the helm— director, Joseph Kosinski. What is so interesting about Kosinski’s involvement is that his first two films, Tron: Legacy and Oblivion are both in the science-fiction genre. For him to tackle a drama based on a true story made me curious to know what I was in for.
Most directors are known for something. For example: Quentin Tarantino has a non-linear story, Richard Linklater has a dialogue-heavy script, full of hyperrealism, and Michael Bay makes terrible movies. What makes Kosinski a unique director is his implementation of special effects. He has a great comprehension of when to use CGI and when to use practical effects. Only the Brave is no different from his two previous films in how he is able to immerse his audience into the film without them feeling like they were just watching computer animations mixed with people.
Director aside, there were other aspects of this movie that helped it stand out from others based on true stories. Let’s talk about the acting. Miles Teller is the first actor to come to mind. This man is so talented; he has an impressive dramatic range with past films like The Spectacular Now, Whiplash, and now, Only the Brave. His ability to take on the character of a burnout was genuinely transformative. I do, however, think that his character changed too rapidly. That’s a writing problem though, not an acting issue. Jennifer Connolly also came out of the woodwork to give an earth- shattering performance in a small role that deserved more attention.
With all the tremendous qualities that this film has, it’s hard to think that there could be anything wrong with it. While ultimately there wasn’t anything wrong with it, something definitely didn’t feel right. What am I talking about? The script itself. Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) and Eric Warren Singer’s (American Hustle) collaboration on this film, while good, could have been better.
I really think this film lost focus on what it really was meant to be. It tried too hard to be a memoriam to the men who lost their lives in that tragic fire, rather than being a movie first. Where the tragedy itself is the anchor of the story, it doesn’t come until the end, and honestly when it does, it remains a little heavy-handed. It almost seemed like this story was being told, not to entertain, but rather just to make the audience cry.
I wish the spine of the plot were driven more by the individual issues that the characters were dealing with, rather than one horrible event that comes near the end of the third act. You almost feel cheated for investing all this emotion into the characters’ backstories, only to find out that it didn’t really matter in regards to how the story ended.
Only the Brave is definitely an accomplishment from a visual effects and acting standpoint. However, it relies too heavily on a gut punch to its audience at the end to drive the story home.
6.5 of 10
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Cover photo from OnlyTheBrave-Movie.com