“Only the Brave” Gets Heroism Back to the Basics

By Allison McCausland

A&E and Online Editor

In an age of superhero films, it is easy to develop higher standards for what constitutes heroism in everyday context and situations. Only the Brave provides audiences with a reminder that those in the service of protecting their homes and communities can be just as heroic for the American public.

The film centers around a group of firefighters in Arizona led by Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), as they attempt to reach elite status for becoming “hotshots,” or those first on the scene to fight and suppress wildfires. Through rigorous training and dedication, the team manages to achieve this goal and become known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a name that became legendary.

Along with the feats of fighting wildfires, subplots for the individual members drive the story as well, having the characters attempt to battle the fires in their personal lives as well as the ones in their own backyard. One of the most significant revolves around Marsh and his wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), as they try to find a balance in their marriage and Marsh’s dangerous career. Another subplot deals with the character of Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a former junkie who tries to get his life back on track and become a better father figure for his new baby girl.

The theme of small town communities being threatened resonates to high degree with the release of this film in the aftermath of United States disasters such as the California wildfires and the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Through shining a light on the work of individuals and teams of first responders, audiences are reminded of the contributions and risks that are taken in order to preserve the people, towns and symbols Americans hold most dear.

The cast and director Joseph Kosinski do a phenomenal job of bringing the story of the courageous team to life, highlighting their valiant efforts as well as their human flaws. Too often are heroes in films perceived as being too perfect or indominable, but Only the Brave delves into the faults that make the characters more compelling and audacious when they manage to put aside or overcome their personal issues and get the job done.

However, the scale and number of characters in the film do cause the pacing and plot to drag as they try and squeeze in as much drama as they possible and then resolve problems a few scenes later. On other occasions, problems or plot points are emphasized, but then forgotten about until they pop up scenes later, needing to give audiences a minute or two to remember why the point was significant in the first place.

Pacing aside, the film manages to keep the dramatic tone and seriousness of the goals that the team tries to accomplish with a few lighthearted or tender moments in between. So take a break from the superhuman heroes that populate the film industry, and get back to the basics with Only the Brave this weekend.

Only the Brave is rated PG-13 for intense scenes, language, drug use and some sexual content.

SHARK – S-2.5 H-2 A-3 R-2 K-2

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