Starring: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Geoff Stults, Andie MacDowell, Alex Russell, Ben Hardy, Jake Picking, Scott Haze
Directed By: Joseph Kosinski
Plot: Based on the true life story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and how they fought hard to protect and save lives from out of control wildfires before tragedy struck.
What Works: In order for me to really get into this, I have to cover a spoiler (which may or may not be a spoiler for you). All of the hotshots die except Miles Teller. Now, why is this important? Well, first off, this is a true story, so if you just did a tiny bit of research, or remembered the news stories at the time, you’d already know that. And, in case you couldn’t tell from the “looming doom” trailers, which also paint a grim future for our crew. This film is a drama, not an action film like those trailers would lead you to believe. It smartly sets up and spends a lot of time on character development for its core group, especially Teller and Connelly, who carry the emotional weight at the end of the film. There were 20 people in the crew including Teller’s character, so some people had to be marginalized. However, when they’re on screen, they all come to life. Featuring a cast of people you’ve seen before, but totally forgot about, including Ben Hardy, who recently played Angel in X-Men: Apocalypse, Alex Russell, who broke through as one of the main boys in Chronicle, and Jake Picking, whose last film was also a true-life story (Patriots Day)… as well as up-and-comers like Scott Haze, who will also star with Miles Teller in next weeks Thank You For Your Service. Each of the minor characters always feels like a part of the gang every time they get a second to breathe. However, this film works because of the strong performances of Teller and Connelly, who are there to help push the emotional climax home. Teller is absolutely compelling and riveting for the last 10 minutes of this film. He really did some great work in this role, again. I also thought Josh Brolin was giving a great performance, and so was (surprisingly) Taylor Kitsch, who seems to be attempting a comeback by choosing smaller films and the right roles. The acting and the commitment to character development are what help this film succeed. Also, the film looks great, and with a 2 hour 15 minute runtime, I can honestly say I didn’t have a problem with pacing. Actually, in one specific area, I could have used a few more minutes.
What Doesn’t Work: Well, it’s not the films fault, but the mismarketing of this film can’t be helping its box office. There’s very little “action” here. Also, I think the director handled the deaths as well as he could have, and avoided pointing fingers, but part of me kinda wanted more at the climax. I guess that’s how quickly it can happen. I felt like one second they’re chilling on the rock, and the next they’re dead, and it was what the whole film was building up to. It’s like if you were watching the Titanic, and it just took 5 minutes of the film to sink. You’d be pretty damn disappointed. I hate to say the audience was waiting for them to die, but we were waiting for this epic moment to arise that would take our heroes out. I just felt really sad for them, that it was so anti-climatic. I feel like that scene needed to be longer. And while I love Andie MacDowell, and I loved seeing her in this film, giving her nothing to do make me uncomfortable. She’s fucking Andie Macdowell. Give her something more to do than just hold Jennifer Connelly while she cries.
Final Word: The previews and setup reminded me a lot of last year’s Deepwater Horizon, so in that comparison, this is the better told film. It spends more time investing you in the characters, instead of the event itself, trusting in the concept that if you grow to love these characters and their stories, that you’ll be twice as devastated by the time the ending hits you. For me, that was pretty true. I was genuinely moved by the final chunk, due in large part to some tremendous acting. This film was sadly mismarketed as an action, and fans looking for a serious character study might stay away. This film has a really strong ensemble that does a good job. Also, the title “Only The Brave” is like waving a surrender flag. The original title, Granite Mountain, was much more authentic, and would have helped the film stand out more. They pulled that crap with Edge Of Tomorrow, changing the title away from the unique All You Need Is Kill, and making it more generic, vague, and boring. This is not a perfect film, but it is a very good one with a nice emotional punch at the end.
Final Grade: A-