Amongst the Halloween horror films coming out this month, the biographical drama “Only the Brave” details a real-life tragedy of losing everything to the wrath of Mother Nature. “Only the Brave” tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who previously directed sci-fi flicks such as “Tron Legacy”, the film illustrates the lives of the heroes amidst the fires and the personal trials they face along the way. Starring Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly, the cast gives realistic and gritty portrayals of the real-life Arizonans. The story of tragedy, courage, and fear is inspiring and relevant amongst the recent fires in California and parts of the Pacific Northwest.
The film opens with the startling image of a forest in flames and quickly changes the scene to Eric “Supe” Marsh, played by Brolin, who is woken up by a phone call. After he is called in for another day of work, he prepares for his day by setting out his gear. One might associate firefighters with red trucks, loud sirens, and attire consisting of heavy coats and pants. However, Marsh sits in front of a different set of equipment: chainsaws, hand tools, ignition devices and water delivery equipment.
Before he leaves, he greets his wife Amanda, played by Connelly, who is busy fixing a broken dishwasher. She mentions how they ended the night in a middle of an argument, but the couple quickly remembers their overpowering love for each other and acknowledge the mundaneness of their previous dispute. The scene then ends with the couple tenderly embracing.
The opening scene might seem unremarkable, but the genuine and real aspect of the characters is what makes the film brilliant. The realistic chemistry between Connelly and Brolin makes it seem as if the viewer is looking into a the marriage of a couple who, despite being together for several years, still have a fiery spark of romance.
“Only the Brave” does not try to paint the characters as infallible heroes that have hearts of gold. The film tackles characters’ experiences with drug abuse, addiction, the negligence and loneliness of their wives at home and struggles to have connections with their children. When the group of men prepare to go out into the wilderness, they almost seem like brothers in a fraternity: detailing mishaps of sexual hookups from the night before, playing practical jokes and yelling profanities at each other. The film shines a light on their humanity and the beauty that comes from forming friendships while fighting the battles of nature.
Depending on the scene, the movie can go from feeling like a heartwarming underdog story, a love story or even a thriller. When the film begins, the men are training to be firefighters and have to face many losses before they earn their “Hot Shot” title, like losing people’s houses due to an error in judgment when putting out the fires, or nearly escaping fires that were not handled properly.
The film also focuses on the firefighters’ relationships with their wives, children or parents. The conversations with the characters are raw and unfiltered, whether they are expressing words of affection, anger or pain. The dialogue is easy to laugh along with, because they illustrate candid moments of life, like sharing embarrassing moments of the day with a loved one over the phone, learning how to be a new parent and take care of a child and laughing at each other’s faults and weaknesses.
In the final act of the film, the viewer is immersed in the dangers of managing forest fires with images of searing flames, and the audience sees the true wrath of nature in a suspenseful and chilling finale.
This film is not only speaks to the tragedies Americans are facing this year with the wildfires in California, but it is also relevant to the recent tragedies caused by natural disasters.
With realistic characters, dynamic relationships, and a thrilling, yet heartbreaking storyline, “Only the Brave” brings the courage of elite firefighters to light and proves it is worth the watch amongst horror films of this fall season.
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