Hot Take: I know I’m in the minority here but I didn’t connect with these characters. It’s a slow paced, workmanlike effort that never feels overly inspired and as an audience member, I never felt invested.
The fact-based Only the Brave tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their efforts to become an elite firefighting team. It features an impressive cast which includes Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges and Miles Teller. Despite the worthy subject matter and capable cast, Only the Brave is challenged with adding in melodramatic elements that weren’t really there to give the film a Hollywood flair. Unfortunately, many of the real elements turn TV movie of the week and while the film tells a worthy story, there’s something missing to keep the film from achieving better than mediocrity.
Considering the gravity of the subject matter, it feels a little harsh to call Only the Brave a mediocre film. Brolin and Connelly star as the Marshes. Eric (Brolin) is the leader of the Hotshots and Amanda (Connelly) is his wife. Both are 12 steppers who struggled with addiction in the past and now Amanda struggles with sharing her husband with fires. Eric is obsessed with having his team of Hotshots certified to fight fires on the front line. There’s also Eric’s team who have their own drama in their lives outside of fighting fires. Eventually, Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Teller) joins the team despite the team’s concerns that “Donut” is a recovering heroin addict and not trustworthy enough to stand along side them battling fires. Eventually, “Donut” wins their trust and earns his way into a role on the team.
Clocking in at 133 minutes, Only the Brave feels stretched to its limits in telling the story of these brave men and their families who sacrifice so much to help fight wildfires. The story layers in fictitious tales of venomous snake bites and domestic squabbles to add to the drama which, in retrospect, feels completely unnecessary with the gravity of the danger of the wildfires and the improbable task the hotshots take upon themselves. The added fiction makes the film feel more hollow than it already does and keeps the movie from achieving more than mediocrity.
If you’re a fan of fact-based tales, Only the Brave might be a movie you want to see. The film does a decent job of sharing the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots even with the unnecessary added drama. For this viewer, the length was a challenge and the added drama never felt real which hurts whenever a “based on a true story” film decides to veer into fiction. The performances are better than average, especially Teller who is establishing himself as an up and coming performer but the film has nothing overwhelmingly positive about it to make it more than mediocre.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
As “Donut”, Teller turns in the best performance in the film. He adds emotion, humor and drama in his role and while many of the characters appear one dimensional, Teller’s does not.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Brolin & Connelly Lack a Connection
As the main couple of the film, neither Brolin nor Connelly ever seem to connect which makes their relationship hard to believe.