Soaked in Americana and twangy guitars, ‘Only the Brave’ offers an uncomplicated glimpse into the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firefighting crew that combats the worst forest blazes. Led by Josh Brolin’s superintendent, the film treats its firefighters more like soldiers, complete with basic training and chopper rides into battle with an enemy they dub ‘the beast’. It’s the developing brotherhood among the men, and the sense of community around them, that ultimately juices up the story.
Director Joseph Kosinski (‘Tron: Legacy’) depicts the infernos in dazzling aerial shots that glide over the Arizona forests. But despite the looming peril on display, Kosinski never imbues his movie with a real sense of danger until it’s too late to take the threat seriously. For all of the movie’s flair, ‘Only the Brave’ lacks a sense of dynamism.
The luxuriantly moustached Brolin is compelling, despite having to do little more than glower. His wife, Jennifer Connelly, has even less heavy lifting to do, save one emotional talk. And the decent cast – including Jeff Bridges – is often reduced to performing via reaction shots. Brolin also serves as a mentor to a new trainee, an underserved Miles Teller, but the blond-rinsed ‘Whiplash’ actor is left as distanced from the story’s emotional core as the rest of us.