By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
One of the more creatively fruitful prestige subgenres of recent is the masculine melodramatic procedural. Think Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriot’s Day, or Clint Eastwood’s recent output.
Post this P.O.S.
Only the Brave may not have any guns, but its story of the wildfirefighting band of brothers that were the Granite Mountain Hot Shots fits squarely in the subgenre. We watch the team form, become the first certified non-governmental hot shot team (the firefighters who engage forest fires directly), and then face wildfires of mind-boggling power.
Like those Peter Berg films above, the formula for Only the Brave’s success is simple- build character and camaraderie, invest the audience in the procedural details of a world unfamiliar to most, then blow it all to hell.
Probably as close to Hell as Nature has to offer.
The key to the first step is strong acting and writing, and the latter feeds naturalistic (and often quite funny) dialogue and character interactions to a cast of of familiar faces like James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jeff Bridges doing his weird old cowboy thing and somehow once again making it unique.
Only the Brave really belongs to Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, and Jennifer Connelly, though, the first two playing the team captain and the young junkie fuckup who reminds him of himself. Connelly plays Brolin’s wife, a horse-whisperer who’s learned to survive on her own as her man fights wildfires, but who’s not sure she wants to. The way their arcs converge in the end is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Director Joseph Kosinksi and DP Claudio Miranda deliver on the blow it all to hell part, finding images of terrible beauty in the flames and the stark Western countryside they lick at. This film proves what I’ve always seen in Kosinski’s more uneven sci-fi efforts- a great director ready to pull all of his talents together and really deliver.
I’ll still take that sequel, though.
It sure feels like forever until we get that first fire. All of the setup arguably pays off in spades when we reach the climactic final half hour, but it does feel like some tightening up could have been done.
Only the Brave is another masculine tearjerker of a tale of heroes and the band of brothers that became them.
Only the Brave (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every practical joke
Take a Drink: whenever drugs are alluded to or taken
Take a Drink: whenever Jeff Bridges in all his glory shows up
Take a Drink: for horses
Take a Drink: for each fire
Do a Shot: every time they do the fire blanket drill