Only the Brave

Reviewed
Fri. 7/13/18
Only the Brave
3.5
Acting
3
3/5
Morality
4.5
4.5/5
Music
3.5
3.5/5
Story
3
3/5
Visuals
4
4/5
Kernel Factor
3
3/5
A good tribute to a devastating tragedy.
Reviewed By: Steven Siwek
Viewing Environment:
DVD or Streaming >27in
Viewing Crew:
Myself
Times Watched:
1
Genre:
Epics/Historical
Payment Method:
Rental/Redbox
Review:

"Only the Brave" is the story of the 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shot firefighters who were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. As someone who was born and (mostly) raised in Arizona, not to mention I lived in Arizona when the Yarnell Hill Fire happened, I felt a special connection to this story. I was also really pleased by how many positive reviews I had heard of the film. I knew I was strapping in for an emotional roller coaster, but I felt pretty prepared, until I watched it. Nature is a beast and this film reminds you that even the experts can't overcome it. 

Acting
Josh Brolin - albeit his accent (which his character explains is because he's from the South) - showed up. Please don't ask me why they (all actors) made Prescott feel like a one-horse, hillbilly town, but they did. I've never met someone from Prescott who had a Southern accent, but I think half the actors had some sort of cowboy/hee-haw/Southern drawl (yes, I know those are all different things). It annoyed me the entire time. BUT, at the end of the day, it's clear everyone is really trying to perform well. It just doesn't always work - there is a bit of forced bro time, firefighter chatter, and chemistry that's just not necessarily there. Miles Teller (who plays "Brendan McDonough") was tasked with a very, very challenging role. He has to go through major transformation. I think his performance was good, but leaves me wanting so much more. Side note: it seems like Hollywood is trying to get Miles to be the next Tom Cruise/adventure/action actor, but I'm not seeing that in him - but I see the potential of great acting. Jeff Bridges (playing "Duane Steinbrink") gave us a character that I couldn't quite figure out - both in purpose and in performance. Jennifer Connelly seemed like she was totally in her element and also desperate to act. There are so many good things to note, but they just went for the moon and didn't quite get there.
Morality
The camaraderie is very bro and comes with a decent amount of crude jokes. Marriage, family, brotherhood, and service are all highly elevated in this film. It was real and raw. 
Music
Great rock music throughout. It lightens the mood. The rest of the emotional tones were good. Fire sounds were very believable.
Story
I couldn't capture this film's goal/purpose. Was it to retell the story of the Yarnell Hill Fire? Sort of. Was it to make us proud of first responders? Yeah. Was it to give us the background of those responder's lives? Yes. If you go in thinking you are only going to be told the story of Yarnell's tragedy, then you're in for a surprise. This movie has an insane amount of background sprinkled with a long scene of tragedy. Personally, I wanted a different structure to the storyline. One other note that frustrated me on the Story was how loosely they played with the passage of time (e.g. it's 2007, 3 years later, etc). They tried to tell so much that we'd be in the year 2007 one moment and without a lower third we had skipped to 6 months later, then 3-6 months later right after that, then we'd get a lower third that said "3 years later". Although I appreciated the backstories and the drama they provided, I don't think the story always needed that. By the time we actually get to the devastating fire scene I'm emotionally drained from having watched the challenges of their lives that I can barely watch anymore. It was so hard when the Yarnell Fire struck - I honestly can't judge the last 20 minutes of this film. It's a beautiful and extremely sad tribute. 
Visuals
I've been to Prescott, AZ dozens of times in my life. And although there are some exterior shots of Whiskey Row, it's a bummer the film isn't shot in AZ. However, that's more of Arizona's fault for not having film credits than it is "Only the Brave's" fault. They did the best they could do in New Mexico, and it mostly works. I wish I would've seen this movie in IMAX because the visual effects are very impressive. The fires look very real. The pace of the fires' movement doesn't seem real, but it obviously must be - I don't know enough about wildfires to comment here. Having just watched "Molly's Game" I felt like I could've learned more about the specific fires they were fighting and/or how they were fighting (beyond dialogue) - for example: freeze frame to show acreage, explain the water tanker's load and purpose, show the details about how they dug a trench/line. Loved the overhead shots - those were executed so well.
Kernel Factor
"Only the Brave" had me on a fishing line the whole time. They would reel me in one moment and let me go the very next. I think it's because they couldn't find their focus. Sadly, the film drags you to the biggest moment that you've been waiting for the whole time. Nonetheless, in the end, I can't believe there are brave men and women who do this sort of work. Thank you!