With film, we are able to explore new worlds, discover heroism, live new adventures, experience danger, love unrequitedly, and make friends all from the comfort of our theater chairs. Our involvement as an audience is to take a journey, to let go of our everyday lives and to just be. Why is this concept germane to Joseph Kosinski’s new film, Only the Brave?
For those of us who lived in Arizona at the time of Yarnell Hill Fire, the loss of first responders’ lives is akin to 9/11. It doesn’t occur to us the risks that these professionals put themselves through to protect their fellow human beings. It is difficult to let go of your emotions when you know the outcome of a real-life event. There is a certain level of guilt that builds up in you; that you want to do something more to help and yet, you can’t.
It takes a special kind of human to do what the Granite Mountain Hotshots achieved. Even though I am not a native to Arizona, I have immense respect for what they accomplished, both professionally as well as politically. That respect stems from the people who made up the crew, the heroism they exude. Equally as important is the script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, based on the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn.
The script does not shirk away from the inevitable. It doesn’t dwell on it either. Instead, Mr. Nolan and Mr. Singer focused on the people, the human side of this story. Mr. Kosinski slowly and methodically builds the story and each character using their experiences to generate the tension.
The cast is a veritable mix of veteran actors as well as newcomers. Though I have not seen footage of Eric Marsh, Josh Brolin did a superb job of bringing him to life. His leadership and his personal experiences seer through the screen driving his intensity and determination to be the best. James Badge Dale plays Jesse Steed, the trusty second-in-command. He is a steady force determined to see the crew succeed. Taylor Kitsch plays Chris MacKenzie, a consummate practical joker. Jeff Bridges regales us with his singing chops and his smooth demeanor as the fire chief, Duane Steinbrink. Andie MacDowell plays Marvel Steinbrink, his wife and Jennifer Connelly plays Amanda Marsh, Eric’s wife.
Of the 20 hotshots on that day, one, Brendan McDonough survived. Miles Teller plays the onscreen version of McDonough, someone who struggled through their young adult life, only to find his mental and physical endurance put to the test continuously. Despite the nickname “Donut” given to him by the members of his crew, McDonough’s endurance shone through this story brilliantly. Mr. McDonough also served as a technical consultant on the film to ensure that what we experience on film is as authentic as possible.
This marks the third directorial effort for Mr. Kosinski, whose directorial debut was the 2010 effects spectacle, Tron: Legacy followed by the Tom Cruise sci-fi film, Oblivion. His command of dramatic-action acting strengthened Only the Brave.
The cast and crew are to be commended for their respectful treatment of real-life heroes. Getting to hear Mr. Brolin and Mr. Kosinski speak on the red carpet at the Arizona premiere of the film in Tempe, they were proud and honored of the work they did here. The story captures the bravery and heroism of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, honors the fallen and embraces the humanity.
Now in theaters, Only the Brave is rated PG-13.