Only the Brave (3 stars)

Only the Brave

Joseph Kosinski takes the helm of a gripping, albeit simplistic firefighting drama, based on real events

Based on a true story, Joseph Kosinski's action-adventure about an elite group of firefighters in Arizona who battled the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013 is one of those films that impacts upon you much more the less you know. As heroic as these twenty men are, their journey is quite shocking if you are oblivious to the outcome – which, one suspects, many outside America will be.

A sharp deviation for Kosinski, following science-fiction outings TRON: Legacy and Oblivion, this is a tale grounded in Mother Nature. After his mountaineering sojourn in Everest, Josh Brolin continues his quest to be cinema's answer to Bear Grylls, playing Eric Marsh, the leader of a team of firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

With the likes of James Badge Dale and Taylor Kitsch amongst their number, the biggest impression is made by Whiplash's Miles Teller, who plays rookie Brendan McDonough. A drug addict who is trying to get his life together when he gets a girl pregnant, Brendan is initially shunned by the tight-knit team, who nickname him 'Donut'.

Working from a script by Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), Kosinski lets the dynamics build gradually. There's even room for Marsh's relationship with his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) to hit some rocky patches, before a devastating fire strikes close to the team's hometown.

The film is simplistic in its outlook – characters are largely the patriotic types that Hollywood loves – but Kosinski knows how to stage action sequences, resulting in some impressive spectacle. Giving a real sense of the dangers of trying to control wildfires, it's a fitting tribute to the heroism of first responders; not just the courageous souls of Arizona, but those willing to put their lives on the line the world over.

General release from Fri 10 Nov.

Only the Brave

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h 13min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
  • Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly
  • UK release: 10 November 2017

Eric Marsh (Brolin) is the leader of a team of Arizona firefighters called the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who are called in to battle the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013. Simplistic drama based on a true story but with some impressive action sequences and a gripping enough tribute to the heroism of first responders.

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