Only the Brave

Oct 19, 2017

The mechanics of firefighting are splendid; the domestic fighting not so much.

Only the Brave

Grade: B-

Director: Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion)

Screenplay: Ken Nolan (Blackhawk Down), Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle)

Cast: Josh Brolin (Sicario), (Miles Teller (Whiplash), Jennifer Connelly (Shelter)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hr 13 min

by John DeSando

“If this isn’t the greatest job in the world, I don’t know what is!” Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin)

True to its title, Only the Brave depicts with authentic-seeming imitation, the hell of fire encountered in numerous fire fights, the most famous being the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire in which 19 firefighters died.  When Director Joseph Kosinski, an expert in action filming, dramatizes the rigorous routine of the fighters, with the help of first-rate CGI, you seem to be right there in the midst of the flames.

Like many  films about war, this docudrama  takes pains to reveal the domestic tensions  with wives waiting for fighters or to become pregnant or to take care of the children.  All of this is to say, one could become impatient with the non-essential melodrama as the real interest is in the mechanics of fighting.

Of course, some domestic story is necessary to humanize the heroic firefighters. However, this film seems to take too much time fleshing out the details of loves and family that take second place to the fires. It’s the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, from Prescott, Arizona, who are the stars as they fight heroically without complaint.

Given the current fires raging in California, Only the Brave is timely if nothing else. It will help put into perspective the danger and valor of the firefighters; it will also dwell unnecessarily on the non firefighting.

All but one of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots do not come home from the Yarnell fire. We are better able because of this film to appreciate the danger of their jobs and the longing of their families. If you want an up close look at how these heroes fight fires, this is the film for you. Certifiable heroes they are.

“I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.” Kurt Vonnegut

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at