As countless films have shown, and real-life experience dictates, firefighters are among the bravest souls that exist. As people run away from the certain death that blazing fire brings, they charge toward it. Few films capture the essence of what it means to fight fires as Only the Brave does in its chronicling of the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Now that Only the Brave is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download formats, those who missed the theatrical release of this stunner that stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch and James Badge Dale, have a priceless opportunity to witness the film’s power in the comfort of your own home. That is not a bad thing as many have responded to the film with some seriously ugly crying that is completely warranted!
Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) establishes early several aspects of this story that will pay off in spades as the real-life happenings of these gentlemen becomes clear. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were the first non-federal group to earn that “hotshots” moniker. Given that dry (read: highly flammable) mountainous Arizona landscape where the firefighters live and work, it was imperative that the community have their own group at the ready instead of waiting for federal firefighters to respond to the call. Kosinski and his screening writing team (Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, penning a script based on a GQ article by Sean Flynn) then can give the audience a first-hand account of what Brolin as team leader had to do to get his guys to the point where the feds would even consider them “hotshots.” It is perilous, arduous and not remotely for the faint of heart.
Brolin is astounding as Eric Marsh, one of his best roles of his career — and that is saying something. He has been born to play many of his roles (W for starters), but it is Only the Brave where it is a hauntingly beautiful case of actor meeting character that produces something truly astonishing. For example, what he does with Teller’s Brendan McDonough is symbolic of how the real-life hotshots leader worked his talent with his team.
McDonough was a recovering drug addict and no one in town would give him a chance to redeem himself in any line of work. Hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream of being a firefighter, he approached Marsh and asks for a chance to be a Hotshot. Of all the vocations available in this town, it seems like fireman who dives into the front lines of forest fires would be low on the list of potential jobs for a recovering addict. Yet, with the help of Marsh, McDonough does succeed and does so in a manner that keenly illustrates what makes this group of hotshots so special on so many levels.
The entire cast brings their best and that is not hard to believe. As headlines tell us, this is a tragedy tale of the highest order. The ultimate price is paid. Full credit to all those involved behind and in front of the camera, those who gave their all are given the ultimate tribute.
When it comes to bonus features, there are many that are must-sees. Boot Camp: Becoming a Hotshot takes a closer look at the Hotshots and how each of the actors took it upon themselves to get physically ready. What proved to be a prophetic decision, the cast trained under real-life Granite Mountain Hotshots and as such it was not simply the physical training they needed to embody these heroes, but they were afforded the opportunity to emotionally connect with these guys and that was priceless in paying tribute.
Speaking of the kinship, Behind the Brotherhood: The Characters is a just over seven-minute featurette that explores how the actors gelled as a unit and also spotlights the power that getting the blessings of the real-life people behind the story had on their collective performance.
For those who want to know more about the real heroes, do not miss Honoring the Heroes: The True Stories. It is an impeccable look whose only drawback is that it is not longer. The eight-minute look finds the cast and crew talking about their personal attraction to the story and each had some reluctance to join the project due to worry over being able to properly bring light to this story that needed to be told with the highest of respect.
Not always the biggest audio commentary fan, we were stunned by the added insight and personal revelations that came through in the track provided by helmer Kosinski and star Brolin. Honestly, it made me want to dive in and witness the movie all over again as soon as possible.
For fans of Dierks Bentley, don’t miss the music video for his original song for the film, Hold the Light, as well as Behind the Song: Hold the Light, which delves deeper into the writing of the song and how it came together.
Film Grade: A
Bonus Features: A