Only the Brave is the most generic title for a movie that’s actually pretty unique by today’s standards. It’s based on the true story of a group of Hotshot firefighters. Apparently a Hotshot firefighter is kind of a green beret of wilderness firefighters – the guys who go out with little support and create fire breaks to prevent wildfires from consuming towns. The timing on this new release is either fortuitous or unfortunate given the fires out west… but since this is based on a true story and it’s emotionally honest and not hyperbolic as an action film, I say it’s well-timed.
I didn’t know the story of why these Granite Mountain hotshots got their own movie but I assumed they are did something amazingly heroic and/or one or more of them died on the job. Given I didn’t know, I’ll assume you might not either and avoid spoilers. Needless to say though, this is a film about fire fighters so there are fires to fight and something dramatic does happen.
But what makes this movie really good isn’t the scenes of the forest fires, it’s the scenes with the men and their families. There are twenty guys to cover so obviously only a few are given the limelight but that’s ok since they depict these testosterone-fueled men’s men as real people. It’s a long movie that spends a considerable amount of time showing their families, their camaraderie, and there love for their babies and children.
Not that the scenes of the firefighters are given short shrift. The movie gives us intense, harrowing but not overly melodramatic scenes of these men just doing their jobs. It’s fascinating watching them be good at what they do and having a certainly nonchalance about the scope of their work. The fire effects are very impressive and never looks like the actors are being green-screened or that the fire isn’t real.
We do get one big action scene at the end where the film ratchets up the tension. Things get serious and the movie knows how to turn their daily jobs into a nightmare… you feel like you’re in the same wilderness as them, you see what dangers are ahead of them, and you know their courage and their fear. It’s a really impressive act of suspenseful film-making.
So, yeah, I really liked this movie. Both for being about a job and the guys who go to work every day to do it, but also as a movie that takes the time to show us their lives. I’m surprised this movie was made the way it is – I’d have expected a shorter run-time, more of a focus on the final firefight, and more action-movie type scenes. But it plays it smart and it plays it human.