I did not know much about Only the Brave before seeing it, other than it was about a group of heroic American wild-fire fighters. Not even knowing it was based on true events, I assumed it would follow the typical disaster movie format, establishing the characters in the first-half and have those people battle a massive blaze in the second-half, suffering casualties but prevailing in the end.
That it is not really like that is either a good thing or a little disappointing, and I have not yet decided which! Sure, the there are some stereotypical characters, any of whom could expire in the flames, from the rookie with a wayward past who is determined to turn over a new leaf, to the veteran who has decided to quit at the end of the season, and the lothario who has finally met a woman he can settle down with. However, way more of this long film was spent in establishing their back stories and relationships than it was of scenes showing the guys in action. Central to that is Josh Brolin’s chief and his relationship issues with his wife played by Jennifer Connolly. When the big climatic blaze does arrive there is precious little tackling of it as it advances too quickly with tragic results.
The vistas and fires are impressively brought to life by director Joseph Kosinski and those deserve to be seen on the big screen. Brolin and Connolly manage to elevate their soapy scenes and they are well supported by Jeff Bridges as the grizzled retired fire fighter and James Badge Dale as Brolin’s right hand man.
So, there is plenty to admire in the performances and the look of the film but I did not feel emotionally engaged enough to be really moved when tragedy strikes.
Rating: 7 out of 10