The tragic story of a an Arizona unit of local firemen known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots serves as the basis for the cinematic recounting of their story in Only the Brave.
Now I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t the first film to be dedicated to the lives of those unsung heroes who put out fires for a living. What sets it apart, however, is that it may be the first film dealing with the dirty business of firefighting that contains very little footage of firemen actually doing what they do best—putting out fires. For a film that runs nearly two and one-quarter hours, there’s only roughly ten to fifteen minutes of actual screen time depicting these men in the act of tackling the fires, which really surprised me. Call me old school but when I invest time in a film about firemen then the least I expect is to witness firefighters doing their actual job. To say it’s a bit of a cheat is an understatement.
Since I’ve established that this film about firemen doesn’t contain a lot of insights into how these men actually do their jobs then you may be asking yourself the obvious question, what this movie is actually about?
Well, one answer would be that it’s full of the sort of melodrama found on daytime soaps and that’s what fills the bulk of the running time. Only the Brave is crammed with enough stock characters and clichéd situations to give even the most stereotypical disaster film a run for its money. Even though it doesn’t devote much screen time to scenes of the destructive nature of fire it does manage to find time to allow star Jeff Bridges to belt out a tune which might be categorized as some sort of bait and switch scheme in some viewer’s eyes.
There isn’t a character in the film that feels like a real human being, most resemble caricatures instead. They feel as if they were conjured up by someone who has spent a lifetime honing the lessons found in the legendary screenwriting guru Syd Fields’ series of screenwriting manuals, meaning that they have as much resemblance to the real world as Avatar did.
For example, there’s the superintendent, played by Josh Brolin, whose wife (Jennifer Connelly) wants a baby and a husband who loves her more than his job. There’s also the perpetual screw up turned firefighter (Miles Teller) who decides to straighten up and fly right after his daughter is born. Then there’s the man at the top (Jeff Bridges) who loves them all like his own children and knows the risks they face, being the grizzled veteran that he is. You get the point.
The most amazing thing about Only The Brave is how it manages to take such an interesting subject and turn it into such a bland and banal film experience. I wanted more and expected more. These brave men who lost their lives deserve better.
At press time, Only The Brave is scheduled to play in Hickory and around the area.
Miles Teller & Taylor Kitsch in Only The Brave
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