The film depicts the real-life Granite Mountain Hotshots, a highly trained rural fire department who specialise in front line fire mitigation. They travel the country attacking brush fires head on, and when a particularly unpredictable fire threatens the township of Yarnell, they are faced with one of the most formidable fire storms of their lives.
Josh Brolin headlines the film as Eric Marsh, the headstrong captain of the department, and he leads the film with a strong, steely demeanour. His gruff exterior gives him a commanding screen-presence as he offers a fatherly figure to the young men in his command. He gives a serious and, at times, emotive performance, which shines a light on the courageous men who work alongside him. Jennifer Connolly plays his ever-suffering wife Amanda, whose patience with his profession is wearing thin. She counteracts Brolin's reserved manner with a softer, compassionate performance, which gives their partnership a realistic dynamic. They're great together and given that they were both teen stars of the 1980s, its fascinating to consider their decades worth of performances culminating in this powerful collaboration.
Miles Teller co-stars as Brendan, a young rookie, whose character-arc has him evolve from being pathetic criminal junkie to an outright national hero, and his performance is arguably the strongest. From frat-house stoner-comedies to Academy Award worthy dramas, Teller has gone from being a promising up-and-comer to one of Hollywood's most exciting and reliable players. As with many of his recent films, he owns every second of his screen time, and brings a charisma to the story that is both endearing and respectable.
Other members of ONLY THE BRAVE's ensemble include Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch and Andie MacDowell. Bridges plays the greater district fire marshal whose guidance and support helps to promote the crew from a low-level fuel reduction team to a fully fledged squad of hotshots (yes, that's a title). He is great (when is he not?) and he even manages to get a live singing performance into the film without raising an eyebrow.
Kosinski is a director with a keen eye for visual effects and ONLY THE BRAVE is no exception. Coming off the back of two highly stylised science fiction movies, the film is the most subtle of the three, and relies on its story and performances. With that said, the recreation of some truly terrifying fires is amazing. Using an even amount of practical and digital effects he has captured the ferocity of the infernos skilfully. And when pitting his characters against insurmountable odds, he crafts the narrative much like a war film. The chain of command and the camaraderie amongst the men, as well as the hellish battles fought, mirrors countless military films and makes for an action-packed drama that remains respectful to the real-life counterparts.
ONLY THE BRAVE is a raw, captivating and emotionally charged drama that serves as a tribute to all who dedicate their lives to the emergency services. It is brilliantly directed, wonderfully performances and masterfully executed.