“This crew will be a real money-maker for the city,” says Prescott’s mayor, “once they are certified.” Fire chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) agrees. “So, Duane,” the mayor says, “it’s all on you to get certified.” Success will mean Prescott’s Type 2 hand crew will become a “hotshot” crew, fighting forest and brush fires on the front line, in other locations, being paid for their dangerous work. “It’s been a goal of the crew for more than four years,” says Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin), the crew’s leader. That’s the setup for this drama, based on Prescott, Arizona’s true-life elite firefighters.
Will the crew be certified? Will new recruit Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) turn his life around? Will you be caught up in this gripping story? I was.
Josh Brolin and Miles Teller play central characters Eric Marsh and Brendan McDonough. Through their eyes we see the drama unfold. Marsh is no-nonsense crew leader who hires ill-prepared, down-on-his-luck McDonough. “If you’re looking for sympathy,” Marsh says, “the only place you’ll find it is in the dictionary.” “Give me a chance,” says McDonough, “I won’t let you down.” Jennifer Connelly plays Amanda, Marsh’s long-suffering, sometimes angry wife. “Amanda Bear” is what her husband affectionately calls her. Taylor Kitsch is crew-member Christopher MacKenzie who, with others, initiates McDonough into the perilous fire-fighting culture.
Others in the cast include crew-members James Badge Dale, Geoff Stults, Alex Russell and Thad Luckinbill. Jeff Bridges is fire chief Duane Steinbrink. Natalie Hall is McDonough’s girlfriend Natalie.
“Only the Brave” pays tribute to members of the Prescott, Arizona, Granite Mountain Hotshots. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, from Sean Flynn’s script (based on Ken Nolan’s article “No Exit”), the film tells two stories: Eric Marsh’s determined effort to achieve certification for his crew and Brendan McDonough’s determined effort to achieve full membership in the Prescott crew. Following McDonough’s efforts, we get a primer in forest/brush fire-fighting — using strategic fires, not water, to contain ferocious blazes, and what to do in life-or-death situations. The film is also a lesson in the physical demands of firefighting, its professionalism and the camaraderie/devotion members of the crew share. It’s a moving and harrowing film.
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, sexual references, language and drugs, “Only the Brave” runs 133 minutes. An adult film, it’s a story we should know — and not forget.
“Only the Brave” hotshots,
Forest fire-fighting crew —
Fighting fire with fire,
And their story’s true.