By Bradley Griffith

“Only the Brave” is based on the true story of elite firefighters in Arizona doing what they do best – fight wildfires. Two movies in a row based on true stories of real-life heroes? The difference is that “Only the Brave” captured the story of these heroes and a captivating and entertaining way.  “Only the Brave” is far superior to “The 15:17 to Paris.”

In 2007 Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) of the Prescott Fire Department leads a group of firefighters who fight wildfires rather than structure fires. Marsh and his crew are top-notch firefighters.  Marsh has the know how to guide them and they have the drive, determination, and passion for their job that is necessary to save lives and homes.

The only problem from Marsh’s perspective is that Marsh and his crew are Type 2 firefighters.  They are not certified as Type 1, Hotshot firefighters. Hotshots are the elite of the elite. They battle the wildfires on the front lines, literally fighting fire with fire. No municipal firefighters have ever been certified as Hotshots. The federal government oversees certifying crews as Hotshots and is biased against a municipal fire department. But Marsh is determined.

Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) has nothing to offer society. He’s hooked on drugs, has no money, lives with his mom (until she kicks him out), and basically spends his days doing nothing but getting high. It’s at this point in his life that he finds out his ex-girlfriend is pregnant. She wants nothing to do with him, wants him to stay away from her and their baby.

Brendan decides to pull his life together. It was one thing when he was only messing up his own life, but now he has a child. He wants to be the father to his daughter that he never had. His first order of business is to get a job, so he applies for an opening with Marsh’s crew. Marsh knows an addict when he sees one. But Marsh also sees a lot of himself in Brendan, so he gives him a chance.

By 2013 the crew has been certified as Hotshots and named their unit the Granite Mountain Hotshots. As the newest crew, they must take on a lot of the workload for fighting wildfires to prove themselves. 

“Only the Brave” is the story of these men who willingly face imminent, life-threatening danger on a daily basis. They choose to face massive wildfires and risk their lives to save the lives of others. “Only the Brave” does a great job of telling their story in such a way to make the struggles of these men and their families both realistic and still entertaining to keep viewers engaged.

The scenes where the crew are battling wildfires are incredible. There are dramatic near-misses as they face raging fires that can turn on them at any time. The special effects as they battle the fires are fantastic. It’s impossible to determine whether the fires are real or computer-generated. “Only the Brave” is a high-quality production in every aspect.

Josh Brolin was dead-on as Eric Marsh. Brolin is a man’s man and was the perfect casting choice for an actor to be the leader of other alpha males. Speaking of which, there’s quite a bit of humor in the movie, mostly the crass, locker-room type of humor between men that makes me laugh every time.

“Only the Brave” grabs your attention early on and doesn’t let go. It’s a very interesting movie and contains quite a bit of information about fighting wildfires that I didn’t know. It made me interested in the real men behind the story and how they find the courage to do what they do. The only thing about the movie that I don’t understand is why the movie bombed at the box office, grossing only $23 million worldwide. It’s an exceptional movie with good actors and a great story. For some reason, it did not attract viewers at the theater. The good news is that it is now available for home rental.

“Only the Brave” is a dramatic, funny, inspiring, and surprisingly emotional. It grabs your attention and holds on for the next two-plus hours. This is how you make a movie about real heroes that is authentic and still fun to watch.

• • •

Grade: A-

Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language, and drug material.