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Blu-ray Review: Only the Brave

February 20, 2018

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by Joseph Kosinski, Only the Brave is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, a group of local firefighters in Prescott, Arizona led by team captain Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin).  Tired of being outranked by the California Hot Shots, Marsh works closely with Fire Chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) and the town’s mayor (Forrest Fyre) to elevate their division to Type 1 status.

The film also focuses on the friendship that forms between Marsh and new recruit Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), a former drug addict who joins the firefighters after getting his girlfriend (Natalie Hall) pregnant, so that he can help support their child.  McDonough is out of shape and is at first treated like an outcast, but he rigorously trains with them to become an invaluable part of the team.

The film does a good job of balancing the human drama elements of the story – including a subplot involving Marsh’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connely), who’s coming to regret their choice not to start a family – with the excitement of the forest fire scenes.  The excellent ensemble cast does fine work portraying the camaraderie that forms between these men, which adds to the suspense felt during the intense fire sequences, and allows us to become even more emotionally invested in their plight.

The Granite Mountain Hot Shots are best known for their involvement in fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013, and those who remember the true story will already know the tragic outcome of the film.  The final few scenes are handled respectfully and in a very moving way, showing the bravery and sacrifice of these men, and paying tribute to the real people behind the story over the closing credits.  Bolstered by solid performances, and featuring some immersive and impressively shot scenes in the midst of the forest fires, this is an engaging and emotionally resonant drama.

The Blu-ray also includes a commentary track with director Joseph Kosinski and Josh Brolin, a selection of deleted scenes, the featurettes Honouring the Heroes: The True Stories, Behind the Brotherhood: The Characters and Boot Camp: Becoming a Hotshot, as well as the Dierks Bentley music video “Hold the Light” and a featurette on the video.

Only the Brave is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release.  It’s 134 minutes and rated PG.

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