Only the Brave

Only the Brave

In Theatres: 
Oct 20, 2017
Running Time: 
133 minutes

Based on the true events of the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013, Only the Brave revolves around an elite crew of firefighters tasked with battling wildfires in the Arizona. Biographical dramas such as this tend to follow the same formula in order to maximize the story’s impact and get the tear ducts flowing. While Only the Brave is no different, a stellar ensemble cast paired with an intense and interesting subject matter keep the film from sounding like a broken record. It’s easy to fall in love with these people and their story, which means it’s also that much more difficult to see them struggle as well.


Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) has spent years building his crew of firefighters and training them to become certified hotshots, the highest classification of wildland firefighters who are assigned with some of the most dangerous tasks of wildfire suppression. While in pursuit of the title he takes a huge risk and hires Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a drug addict who is looking to turn his life around after finding out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his daughter. Brendan doesn’t just get a job though; he forms an unbreakable bond with a community of brothers that drives him to become a better person.


It’s this camaraderie between the firefighters that drives the entire film. Taylor Kitsch and James Badge Dale are the two standouts among the 20-member crew in addition to Josh Brolin. Kitsch’s Chris MacKenzie is one of the first guys to ridicule Brendan when he shows up to interview for the position because he knows how big of a screwup he is. After seeing him put in the work and do his best, though, Chris lets up and the two actually become close friends. There’s a heartwarming scene where the two of them are living in an apartment together, and Brendan’s daughter is staying over for the first time, and Chris goes through the trouble of baby-proofing the entire apartment beforehand. It’s a charming scene that showcases the bond these firefighters have with each other.


Another great aspect of Only the Brave is the firefighting itself. I personally had next to no knowledge about wildland firefighters, and the film does an excellent job at highlighting the ins and outs of the job. It’s a fascinating yet extremely dangerous world. Seeing these guys tackle these massive wildfires head on is intense with flames billowing up all around them as they race to stay ahead of the path of destruction. As elite the team may be, however, there’s only so much you can do against the forces of nature before it overpowers you.


Only the Brave succeeds because it keeps you invested in its characters. It does a fantastic job at exploring what makes each individual tick as well as bringing them all together for these big ensemble scenes. The film grabs you from its first moments and doesn’t skip a beat, drawing you into its dangerous world. Even though we’ve seen this genre of film plenty times before, it doesn’t make it any less enthralling this time around.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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