I’ll be the first to admit that when I first saw the trailer for Only the Brave earlier this year, I didn’t think it looked all that good. All I thought was “Oh great, here’s another cliché biopic.” Well, I’m here to say that I was COMPLETELY wrong. Only the Brave is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but it is also one of the best biopics in the past 5 years. I walked out of the theater completely shocked and amazed at how much I enjoyed it.
Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire.
Wildfires are some of the most terrifying disasters that can happen. With wind and humidity assisting at giving the fire a mind of its own, you definitely do not want to be caught in the middle of a wildfire. The Granite Mountain Hotshots would say otherwise. Their acts of heroism saved thousands of acres of lands and numerous towns between 2008 and 2013. Only the Brave is a powerful tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots and it transcends the clichés that come with disaster movie biopics.
Led by Oscar Nominee Josh Brolin (Who may very well get another nomination for this one), the cast is great. Brolin portrays Eric Marsh, the Superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Marsh is a very firm and determined leader who is married to his career more so than his wife Amanda Marsh (Jennifer Connelly). The chemistry between the two is undisputed and definitely helps you get attached to them as the movie progresses. You can tell that they love each other very much, but Eric is so engrossed in his job and his team that Amanda is neglected at times. Miles Teller turns in a remarkable performance as the struggling Brendan McDonough. At the start of the film, Brendan doesn’t really have his life together. He’s down on his luck and also has a baby on the way. He approaches Eric for a job and he decides to take a chance on him. Teller may have an Oscar Nomination for Supporting Actor in his future. This is his best role since 2014’s Whiplash. Jeff Bridges also has a solid role as Duane Steinbrink. It is not as good as his performance in last year’s Hell of High Water, but it’s still respectable. The rest of the Hotshot team doesn’t get as much focus, but it honestly functions well without having a lot of background on all the characters. I still felt attached to the entire team even though they didn’t all get as much screen time.
The writing and directing in Only the Brave is some of the best of the year. Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) has a confident vision and he does a great job with the characters, giving them proper development and making them familiar. Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle) and Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) deliver a powerful screenplay that could possibly get an Oscar Nomination for writing. The visuals and cinematography were also impressive. There could be a lot of Oscar Nominations in the future for Only the Brave, coming from both the technical and non-technical side.
The aspect that makes Only the Brave one of the best films of the year is that is has virtually zero genre clichés. Going into it, I thought there were going to be so many cheesy lines and “overcoming adversity” scenes, but to my surprise there really weren’t any. The movie felt very genuine and nothing felt forced. The great performances from Brolin and Teller also help with the transcending of tropes that come with disaster movie biopics. It is very refreshing to see a film that can tug on your heart-strings, make you laugh, and be informational about its subject matter.
Only the Brave is one of those movies that absolutely needs to be seen in theaters. The performances and spellbinding visuals coupled with poised direction and a heart wrenching 3rd act make for a great cinematic experience. I predict multiple Oscar Nominations from the Academy as well. Fair warning though, do not make the same mistake I did by not bringing a box of tissues with you. This is one of those movies that will make you ugly cry.