Only the Brave

Rated 3.0

After a slow start, Only the Brave becomes a solid tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who lost 19 men battling the massive Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013. The Hotshots were an elite Prescott, Arizona, crew led by veteran firefighter Eric Marsh, played here by Josh Brolin. Brolin’s performance ranks among his best, showing us a man presiding over his crew like a father to his sons. Marsh takes a risk on Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a former drug user seeking redemption and a decent living to help provide for his newborn daughter. The always reliable Teller matches Brolin’s acting triumph every step of the way, making both Marsh and McDonough fully fleshed, complicated and ultimately likeable characters. The two seem right at home with each other on screen. Director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) takes a solid step beyond his prior sci-fi missteps to provide a movie that is technically sound, emotionally powerful, and just a little hokey and overlong in spots. The movie is never bad, but it does drone a bit during some of the melodramatic build up. It never goes wrong when the team is on the job, fighting fires. It just gets a little sleepy when folks are sitting around talking or bickering. The final sequences in the movie are so well done, you’ll feel kind of bad for groaning during the film’s more lumbering parts. By the time Kosinski shows the real-life firefighters alongside their Hollywood counterparts, the film had driven a major message and homage to these guys successfully and memorably.