Tuesday 27 March 2018

Only the Brave ★★★★☆

Sometimes, we need to be inspired. There’s a lot of sadness and hate in this world, but there’s a lot of courage and love. In recent years, stories of heroism and bravery have taken the cinema by storm and it seems like not a month goes by without another true story film where an ordinary person does the extraordinary. Here we find ourselves at the beginning of 2018, and in the past few months alone, we’ve had films like Stronger, The 15:17 To Paris and Only The Brave on our screens. Let’s have a look at the latter. While this film is based on a historical event and I disagree with the premise that you can ‘spoil’ a true story, I should mention that important plot points will be discussed in this review.

The film tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group within the Prescott Fire Department who specifically fought forest fires. On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the 20-strong group died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the greatest loss of life for firefighters in a wildfire since 1933, the deadliest wildfire of any kind since 1991, and the greatest loss of firefighters in the United States since the September 11 attacks. Naturally, this upsetting yet inspiring story has Hollywood written all over it. With Joseph Kosinski (director of Tron: Legacy and the upcoming Top Gun sequel) at the helm, this was one of those films that could’ve gone either way. It could’ve been a touching and poignant study of these brave fallen heroes, or it could’ve been a disrespectful Hollywoodisation – turning the loss of lives into an action blockbuster.

Thankfully, for the families of the fallen men, this is a respectful (albeit supposedly semi-fictional) look at the lives of these men. Over the film’s first 2 hours, we get to know each and everyone of them. We learn who they are. We learn why they fight fires. We learn about their families, who depends on them, and who they depend on in return. Then, we witness their harrowing and upsetting deaths. Surrounded by a fierce fire with no way out, they all perish together. Think the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3, without the last-second heroics of the aliens. It’s a punch in the heart, especially with the following scenes of family grief and an end credit montage showing us the real fighters.

But an understanding of their sacrifice is important, and inspiring. While there might not be a big ‘point’ to the film as such, it certainly makes you think and makes you feel. This is a powerful cinematic eulogy for the fallen men, if nothing else – and powerful it is. It may not be an unforgettable film, but it is a passionate and poignant tribute. Difficult to watch, yes. But if you don’t walk away from it inspired, then there’s something wrong with you. The film is visually stunning – a blend of CGI and practical effects give the powerful flames life, and as a viewer, you will feel the heat firing out of your television. The stellar cast – Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly – are all on fine form, and the direction is top-notch. There’s really nothing wrong with the technical or filmmaking side of Only The Brave.

But viewers should beware. This is an emotionally-shattering experience that will leave you a blubbering wreck, whether you like it or not. You will come to feel like you know these men – and learning they’re gone with their families in the film’s climax will hit you hard. The film is hard-hitting, but important. In today’s day and age, we should never forget the bravery of everyday heroes who sacrifice their lives for anything. While we continue to live, we should always remember them. 
Only The Brave is a powerful tribute to 19 heroes.

I dedicate this review to anyone who continues to risk their life to help others, in any capacity. You are all heroes, and the world is lucky to have you.

Sam Love

Only the Brave at CeX

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