Plot: Eric (Josh Brolin) has supervised his squad of firefighters for years, eager to take on the front lines of wildfires, but forced to watch from a distance, as only hot shot squads are allowed in the middle of the action. But the wait for evaluation has been extensive and over time, he has lost some great men to other squads and of late, he has added some fresh blood. The training has gone well, but they’ll soon face a crucial test, as hot shots evaluation has come up. In the next fire, they will be watched and evaluated, to see if the squad has hot shot potential. Eric makes a bold play to ward off the fire, against the recommendations of the evaluate, but his risk paid off and saved a lot of acres of lush land. One of the new recruits is known as Donut (Miles Teller), a new father who has left behind a troubled past and found a second chance thanks to Eric. Now that they have been certified, it means more work, more travel, and more fires, which strains Eric’s already stressed marriage. He wants to be with his wife, but he also feels the call to suit up and be on the front lines. As the calls to fight the blazes continue to roll in, what road will Eric and Donut take in their lives?
Entertainment Value: This movie is based on real life events and in truth, I think that will shield it from a lot of criticism. After all, no one wants to dissect a movie about heroic men who laid down their lives, but at the same time, this is a movie all the same and for me, Only the Brave wasn’t a good one. I found the main issue to be in the choice of Miles Teller as Donut, as he has a prominent role and is by far the weakest link in the cast. I think several of the actors given more minor roles were more engaging and had better presence, but were relegated to minimal screen time. In the other lead is Josh Brolin, who turns in one of the most overacted performance I’ve seen in a movie this serious, crossing over into camp at times. Perhaps he just went overboard trying to be dramatic, but it borders on unintentional humor at times, as he chews his way through scene after scene. Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly fare better, but also pile on the overdone drama, without question. The movie runs on pure melodrama for almost the entire duration, then slams on the brakes and tries to steer into an emotional finale. If the movie wasn’t based on real events, this conclusion would ring hollow, but the grave reality is what gives it resonance. I just feel like a tragic, but heroic narrative like this one deserves better than overacting and borderline camp writing, which is all that Only the Brave can muster.
No nakedness. A couple very brief male ass shots creep in, but they’re quick and minor, so no points needed. A little blood from a rattlesnake bite and assorted on the job scuffs, but no real bloodshed. The fire effects were impressive however, aside from the flaming ghost bear, of course. The movie needed effective blazes to craft tension and dread, so kudos to the effects team behind the fire visuals. The dialogue is stilted, corny, and often so bad, it seems like unintentional humor. Brolin rattles off raspy cliche after raspy cliche, as well as a quota of using fireman lingo every so often, to remind people how good the research was. A lot of quotable lines, but for all the wrong reasons, as a lot of the writing is camp level material. The flow feels unnatural and very forced, which is just amplified by the overacting from Brolin, Bridges, and Connelly. So the score is decent, but only because we appreciate dialogue that so bad, it winds up being good in unintended ways. The camp level being so high is pretty wild, plus the fiery ghost bear, so a little wacky, to be sure. Even so, the movie’s tone is serious, so despite the goofy writing and performances, it stays on the rails.
Overall Insanity: 1/10