Review: ‘Only the Brave’ is forgettable, clichéd

“Only the Brave” is the latest addition to a growing niche in the movie market of inspirational, true stories of real life heroes surviving dangerous situations.

This subgenre has basically been cornered by Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg with three recent collaborations on “Patriots Day,” “Deepwater Horizon,” and “Lone Survivor.”

And while “Only the Brave” certainly makes a strong claim for being taken seriously with its touching story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, it ultimately falls short.

The movie stars Josh Brolin as Eric Marsh, the superintendent of a group of wildland firefighters striving to receive their certification as “hotshots,” who are able to engage a wildfire directly.

And while the climax of this movie is billed as the Great Yarnell Fire of 2013, the bulk of the runtime is centered around the camaraderie of the men, their families, and the personal struggles of the two main leads, the previously mentioned Josh Brolin and a young, recovering drug addict named Brendan McDonough played by Miles Teller.

The relationship between these two characters and their respective romantic interests are by far the most interesting part of the movie. More similar than either of them realize, they struggle to reconcile their haunted pasts and current lives as hotshots without neglecting their families.

These conflicts make for some effectiveness but they largely remain unexplored as many allusions to each characters’ spiritual life, haunted past, and domestic troubles are too vaguely and confusingly referenced to pique any interest or earn any genuine emotional impact.

By far the most pleasing fact of this movie is its visuals.

The entire movie is varnished with a smoky, amber color palette that accentuates the stated fact by one of the characters that all the beautiful natural scenery of the Arizona wilderness is just fuel for a potential inferno.

This scenery provides a fitting canvas for a number of sequences with some impressive special effects. Dusty, dirty, ashy landscapes dominate much of this movie, which creates an atmosphere of dread and danger leading up to its final act.

This movie ultimately fails with its close adherence to conventional storytelling, a slow pace that does not have the desired effect, and a number of weak points in the script. Too often these inspirational movies feel stale, forced, inevitable, and emotionally exploitative and “Only the Brave” is no exception.

Painfully cliché and poorly written at times, this comes to a head in the film’s conclusion where the dialogue is so bad that the harrowing circumstance elicits eye rolls instead of overflowing tear-ducts.

Despite this films obvious respect and adoration for the true heroes it portrays, it sticks too close to formula to make it anything other than forgettable.

Grade: C

Jared Skinner, Features Writer

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