Watching this year’s forest fires scorch the western United States has highlighted the dangers and difficulty faced by those willing to fight fire with fire. The photos of homes and landmarks saved and left untouched seared into our memories—a tribute to the dedication and hard work of so many.
Perhaps none more so than Multnomah Falls, a popular waterfall running along the Columbia River Gorge outside Portland, Oregon, saved due to an all-out effort by first responders. Just as shocking are the pictures of who and what couldn’t be saved. Like the apocalyptic images of Douglas Thron’s overhead drone footage of a U.S. postal service truck attempting to deliver mail to burnt out, charred, desolate neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California. Both instances underscoring the strength and devastation wildfires are capable of leveling and the men charged with stopping it.
“Only the Brave” takes us back to the true-life beginnings of Arizona’s Granite Mountain Hotshots, the self-proclaimed SEAL Team Six of forest fire killers. While it’s a film that illustrates the tactics, techniques and procedures used to fight wildfires, “Only the Brave” is a humble, character-driven drama about these very special young men and those closest to them.
The movie’s driving force are shifting 60-mile per hour winds and the sacrifices made by Hotshot family members; whether they’re wives or girlfriends, their struggle is real and just as tense.
Director Joseph Kosinski, tapped to deliver “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2019, surrounded himself in this outdoor feature with proven film veterans on both sides of the camera. Co-writers Ken Nolan (“Black Hawk Down”) and Eric Warren Singer (“American Hustle”) constructed powerful roles for a superb cast of known actors, actresses and handfuls of newcomers. None better than Jennifer Connelly’s screen gem as the hardcore wife of the Hotshots’ brazen leader (Josh Brolin).
“Only the Brave” is a tough film to watch. It’s gripping to see the risks these dedicated souls take on each wildfire. The movie’s also very emotional and funny at times, as we learn about each character’s life outside of forest fires.
Intense filmmaking doesn’t come close to describing the smoke, ashes and heat this film pours down on the woodlands and viewers. The outdoor fire scenes are easily the best cinematography since 2015’s “The Revenant”. You’ll feel so close to the flames your eyebrows may get singed.
A remarkable tribute to these first responders and their line of work, their families, and the esprit de corps they share.
“Only the Brave” is rated PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language, and drug use. Its running time is 2 hours and 14 minutes.