Big Picture Big Sound

Only the Brave Review

By Matthew Passantino

'Brave' is Uneven but Powerful

So much of Joseph Kosinski's "Only the Brave" is done right, which makes the moments that lag or feel off about the film extra frustrating. In the end, the movie is a respectful tribute to a team of real-life superheroes whose story deserves to be told.

The movie focuses on the Granite Mountain Hotshots, led by Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), who is looking to fill a spot on his team. He interviews a young junkie, who is trying to get his life together to help support his newly born daughter. Brendan (Miles Teller) wanders into Eric's office looking for a job and it's apparent he would take any job he could get. He's twitchy and nervous - a few weeks clean but entirely unprepared for the world outside.

Members of the team (James Badge Dale and Taylor Kitsch) advise Eric against giving Brendan a shot but Eric decides to anyway. Brendan struggles with basic training, showing no signs of hope that he might survive the simplest parts of this daring job. His determination to prove he can be a good father keeps him going and even ends up surprising a few of his critics on the Granite squad.

Most of the movie feels like a hangout with this team, which is occasionally effective as we watch their brotherhood and camaraderie grow and strengthen after every assignment. Kosinski directs the fire sequences with a confident hand, doing a good job about placing the Hotshots in the midst of the mayhem.

The script by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, based on a GQ article by Sean Flynn, will intermittently challenge your attention span as they bog things down in exposition and trying to get to know these characters without ever diving too deep. The Granite Mountain Hotshots is an extensive team but most of them are fillers in the background and the ones we do spend more time with feel like surface level characterizations.

Brolin brings a weary, lived-in appearance to his performance, which offers shading to Eric, something lacking most surrounding him. He is passionate about his job and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and sometimes struggles to strike a balance between the two. Teller continues to grow as an actor with every role he takes and delivers his best work since "Whiplash." Rounding out the cast is Jeff Bridges, who barely factors into what's going on in the movie but appears to provide moments of clarity and reason to Brolin's character.

"Only the Brave" chronicles a dangerous profession and suffers from feeling too relaxed in its first act. The movie plods along, getting a bit repetitive at times, but rebounds by sticking the landing with an emotional and intense final act. There are moments of great power in "Only the Brave" but its overall effect could have benefited from a tighter, more focused movie.

What did you think?

Movie title Only the Brave
Release year 2017
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Despite some moments that lag, this story about the firefighting Granite Mountain Hotshots is a respectful tribute to a team of real-life superheroes.
View all articles by Matthew Passantino
More in Movies
Big News
Newsletter Sign-up
Connect with Us