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Review: Only the Brave

Miles Teller and Josh Brolin star in Columbia Pictures' ONLY THE BRAVE

Only the Brave is just more proof that Hollywood will always find itself in weird positions with movies that are supposedly “based” on true stories. We should know by now that we shouldn’t take that to mean what we’re watching is accurate, but some people understandably assume that what they’re getting is authentic to a large extent. I guess it also depends on what you’re going to see movies like this for. Although some will just be looking for a good movie, others may want something that’s accurate as well.

This one is based on a unit of local firefighters out of Arizona who came to be known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Through perseverance, determination and sacrifice, these men proved to be a rare group as they became one of the most elite firefighting teams in the nation. During this time, they also have to not only form a strong team, they also need to find a way to balance life and family as they face a future that consists of insane levels of danger at nearly every turn while on a job that requires people who are willing to be heroes at any cost.

Movies like Only the Brave are awkward to sell since we really won’t know about how much of what we see actually happened. I noticed at the start of the movie, it states that this is “based on true events.” This alone caused me to pause a little because we usually get the “based on a true story” statement instead. Right away, I figured that what I was about to see was going to be mostly fiction as they would basically spend their time adding onto one or two real situations that these guys actually found themselves in.

What we get outside of those “events” are scenes and scenarios where the filmmaker is trying to build a connection between the characters and the audience in order for everything to work the way it’s supposed to. You have to remember that this is a movie, so accomplishing that is important if you want the people watching to react in some way. While that’s fine and should be expected with any type of film, I can’t say they handled this as well as they could have. That’s especially true for those who don’t know a lot about what actually took place in real life.

One way they try to build that connection is by basically making a bunch of stuff up that didn’t actually happen. While I expected that based on the “true events” notification at the beginning, these guys went overboard as they really padded the film’s run time. If what we see was necessary and real, I wouldn’t have much of an issue with it. But you’re already taking tons of liberties with this story, so you could have made what we see more palatable by making every scene count and greatly reducing the length of the picture.

I say that because what you find in many instances here is that a significant amount of scenes could have easily been eliminated all together without really changing the vast majority of what we need to see in this movie. This would have made the film undoubtedly better. You won’t find too many people complaining about the change if it happened, but there are a couple of actors who may have taken issue with it since their amount of screen time would have been greatly reduced by taking such an approach.

The most noticeable reduction would have come at the expense of Josh Brolin. He’s being featured here as the main character, but he shouldn’t be. If you’re just paying attention to what happens throughout Only the Brave, the only person who should have been starring in the lead position was Miles Teller. The reason for that is because he stars as the only person with any true and significant character arc. He also ultimately plays the most crucial role when looking at the film in its totality.

If they would have chosen to take this route, Only the Brave improves, plus Brolin remains in the second most important role in the picture. Jennifer Connelly on the other hand (who plays the wife of Brolin’s character), would have almost been completely removed from the movie. They clearly added a bunch of these scenes just to give her something to do. She doesn’t really have a purpose here and eats up more space than she should have. I’m sure she wouldn’t have liked the change, but the rest of us would have benefited it greatly.

Even if they’re not always accurate or authentic, most of the other scenes that may be works of fiction fit the overall narrative that is needed to tell this specific story that they want to tell. For many of the people who choose to see this, that may prove to be the key to whether you like it or not. However, you can also leave the theater in a confused state after the film reaches its climax. That’s kind of how I felt when I was done with it and started thinking about it as time passed.

If you’re like me and you don’t know anything about the actual story beforehand, you may not be sure how you should take Only the Brave after watching it. Although it’s a good, but flawed movie overall, it’s also a difficult movie to recommend. A part of that is due to me not being able to see it in a positive light since it’s also manipulative in a way that’s even a bit much for Hollywood’s standards. I would like to explain more, but (as always) I’m not wiling to spoil anything.

To decide, you’re going to have to decide for yourself. There will likely be people who will genuinely like everything about Only the Brave, but there will also be people who walk away feeling a little angry or even manipulated with what they get. While I didn’t feel either of those, I did come out questioning just how much people behind the scenes should be altering in these situations just in order to get a response from the audience. Then again, maybe people don’t have a problem with that even in situations like this one.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Cast:
Josh Brolin
Miles Teller
Jeff Bridges
James Badge Dale
Taylor Kitsch
Jennifer Connelly
Ben Hardy
Alex Russell

Film Length: 134 minutes

Release Date: October 20th, 2017

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

  • Score - 7/10
    7/10
7/10
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