Real-life testimonies of sacrifice and heroism are told every day, but it is when these stories are translated into mainstream film that make the story even more profound. A perfect example for this is through Joseph Kosinki’s (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) recent film Only the Brave, coming to NZ cinemas on November 9. This drama-based film recounts the real-life story of The Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firemen crew from Prescott, Arizona; who encountered numerous adversities during their fight against one of the deadliest wildfires in US history back in 2013. Will Kosinki and his main cast be able to give this heart-breaking, yet empowering story justice?
The group in the film is led by shabby but strict Eric (Josh Brolin) who is the main character in this film alongside his younger protégé and former-junkie Brendan (Miles Teller). The fellow men from the bearded, muscular built team (Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Geoff Stults) play supporting roles throughout the film. Their mission is to do their utmost best as well as being the first elite response team to protect their homes, located near Prescott, Arizona. The team are stand off towards Brendan at first since he is a novice in the industry and does not share the same brotherhood bond with the rest of the men. In say this, he still aims to build on his skills for the job and is determined to work on being an asset to the team. Jeff Bridges plays the mentor/fire chef for the group/fire department and is heavily supportive of their endeavors, whereas Eric’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) as well as the fellow men’s wives remain deeply concerned for their safety.
Viewers are assisted with a well-written script (from the works of Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer) and can comprehend the men’s job in more depth and detail. We are also able to learn more than enough about the logistics but also the consequences of wild-land firefighting, which leaves space for the viewer to be prepared for what is to occur in the next few scenes. Through this, Kolinski allows us to emphasize with the men and what risks they need to take in order to protect their fellow citizens. He effortlessly highlights their strength, stamina, endurance but also aligns these traits with vulnerability, fear and distress at the face of adversity. Only the Brave is merely an homage to a real-life team of firefighters and is a constant reminder of life’s meaning and purpose.
The main theme to this film that was enjoyable was brotherhood. The budding rapport between Brendan and Chris, that was brought to life by Teller and Kitsch, was refreshing and warming to witness through the screen. Seeing as this is clearly a re-enactment, it makes you think how strong these men’s bond was in real life.
The film’s climax is spaced out for a long duration (film is 2 hr 30 min in total), to make way for any relevant backstory and crucial events leading up to the devastating and traumatic outcome. Turns out that Kosinki put together an ideal cast seeing as the group, including the wives had exceptional on-screen chemistry together which helped make the story more authentic, realistic, and intimate.
Only the Brave is an action/drama film that doesn’t parade on the ‘macho’ label but doesn’t belittle the strength of brotherhood either. Character development, especially in real-life adaptations is essential and it seems that this film emphasised that with eloquence. The entire situation is saddening and melancholic but in saying that, it does restore faith in humanity.