This days ensemble films are like London buses. You wait forever for one, and then they turn up in droves. In recent weeks we’ve had Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin and Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. Joseph Kosinski has furnished us with the latest arrival – Only the Brave.
As if pairing two of Hollywood’s grizzled veterans in Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin is not enough to titillate, Only the Brave also stars Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, James Badge Dale, Ben Hardy, Alex Russell, Natalie Hall, amongst a clutch of lesser known stars.
In America, apart from the four main seasons, there are also the disaster seasons, the main ones of which are the hurricane and fire seasons. This biographical film focuses on a group of firefighters in Arizona known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. They fought the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013.
Josh Brolin is the no nonsense, yet amiable leader of the pack – Eric ‘Supe’ Marsh . He drills his men and ensures they’re in form to face the raging infernos that tear through the dry American heartland. But all is not well at home. His wife, Amanda, played brilliantly by Jennifer Connelly, wants a child – which goes against their ‘pre-nup’ agreement. Jeff Bridges is Duane Steinbrink – a sort of Godfather figure to the Supe.
Miles Teller is Brendan ‘Donut’ McDonugh. Donut is the stoner who has to get his life together when a fling turns into an unplanned pregnancy. The Supe – against his crew’s wishes – is the man who gives Donut a chance to turn his life around. From then on, the camaraderie builds between the crew, and a brotherhood bond is forged.
This film about fire fighting is one for the slow-burn archive. You can trust the cast to put in a good shift. It is gritty in some parts, and sentimental in others. And this is where Kosinski had his work cut out for him. When you make a film about men who voluntarily go out to fight raging infernos, you’ll always be judged on, not only the heroism on display, but also the sentimental aspect. I think Kosinski did a good job finding the right balance of grit and tenderness. However, the jury would be out on this one for some time yet.