“Only The Brave”

 

            During our camping vacation this summer, we were close enough to a wildfire to see the glow and smell the smoke.  And that was close enough for me.  Firefighters have to overcome the normal human instinct:  to run away from a blaze.  Instead, they run toward it. Or, as part of their training, build a firewall that will counteract the inferno before them, and help it to die out for lack of fuel.  It's physically demanding, and can also be emotionally taxing.  And that's if everything goes well.

            “Only The Brave” is the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, of Prescott, Arizona, the only municipal fire department ever to be officially certified as one of the elite groups on the front line, fighting forest fires.  Since they were a close-knit group, we get to know some of the men personally, including the Supervisor, or “Sup,” Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), who's a hard worker and has garnered the respect of  his whole crew.  But all is not well with his lovely wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), because though they started out saying they didn't want any children, she's now changed her mind.  And he hasn't.

            Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) is a guy who's been known as an underachiever, and a drug addict.  The rest of the men can't believe the “Sup” is going to give this guy a chance, but what they don't know is that “Sup” sees a lot of himself in Brendan.  He won't coddle him.  But he will give him an opportunity to prove that he's really turned his life around.

            We follow this rough, gruff group of men who are highly-trained but also still capable of silly pranks on each other.  Some of their personal lives are examplary, others not so much.  But they're all serious about their work.  Even down to the drill where they cover themselves in a cocoon of fire-repellent material and lie face down on the ground in preparation for the worst:  the fire's out of control, and it's headed right toward them.

            Some of the camaraderie seems a bit contrived.  The Mayor and the Fire Chief come across as somewhat stiff and officious (even though the Fire Chief is Jeff Bridges, who's normally utilized better).  It's longer than it needs to be.  And yet, it packs a wallop at the end, which hopefully won't be given away before you get a chance to experience the impact yourself.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  When have you needed someone to give you a second chance?

2)                  When have you decided to give someone else a second chance?  How did that work out?

3)                  What's the most physically demanding thing you've done?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association