Only The Brave
Stars: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller,Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckenbill, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges, Andie MacDowell and Natalie Hall
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Scriptwriters: Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer from the GQ article “No Exit” by Sean Flynn
Composer: Joseph Trapanese
Cinematographer: Claudio Miranda
Running Length: 134 minutes
Josh Brolin plays Eric Marsh, who is the leader of a firefighting group in Arizona. Jennifer Connelly is his wife, Amanda, who takes care of abused horses. Their friend is Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges) and Eric and Jeff are trying to better the fire team and go into the Hot Shot category. There are vignettes of many of the men in the group of 20. Their ages, with the exception of Eric, are in their twenties. This is dangerous work, and they live on the edge. Miles Teller is Brendan (Donut) a troubled youth with a girlfriend, new baby and trying to stay away from drugs. Many of the group have families and some go from girlfriend to girlfriend. This is western country, and the dryness of the climate and sagebrush, not to mention lightning strikes in higher elevations, add to the possibility of fire. Not only is there that to watch for, but on the ground are rattlesnakes, too.
We see the men train to keep in shape, and how they keep track of the latest weather conditions and wind velocity. During the real tragedy, it was noted there was a lack of communication which led to the men being stranded. This is the major problem at Yarnell and it is harrowing to be with the men and flames "high as the sky."
As far as acting, Josh Brolin does a very good job as the conflicted Eric, who lives for his job and doesn't seem to notice much else, even his wife. Brolin does a great deal of acting with body language. On the opposite side is Miles Teller, whose character is trying to leave a past behind and finds new life with this group of men and his own growing family. He does notice things. It takes a moment to recognize Jeff Bridges under his cowboy hat and accent, and though Andie MacDowell’s name is in the credits, she isn't in the film much at all. Cinematography is first-rate and what special effects there are, blend in well. You are there, on the ground or in the air, and this is what it is like to fight a forest fire. Joseph Trapanese music score gives a western flavor without being obtrusive
My experience with a forest fire was from 600 miles away, and I got hourly reports from my late aunt as the fire in her state was approaching her farmhouse which was on a river. If the fire crossed a highway, it was time to evacuate either by road or by boat. Eventually, the wind shifted, there was rain, and her property was safe. Close call. As shown in this film, living in dry brush country, where would you evacuate? The fire could toss sparks anywhere near you. There are no lakes or rivers for shelter. “Only The Brave” gives you quite a viewpoint of fighting forest fires, and by fighting one large fire, what can be saved, such as a several hundred year old Joshua Tree. It takes brave men to fight forest fires and 19 of them were the bravest.
Copyright 2017 Marie Asner
* * * * *
(for Hot Shot firefighters who died in Arizona)
Each night, when the moon rises, the mountain and valley
wait against a background of dark and remember that time…
afternoon sun still the same
and rocks holding earth as before,
known only to those who took the final steps
from flesh and bone through a doorway
into light for another assignment.
The graveled road lead to a clearing
and tree tops began to stir
Fire on the mountain now rises and looks
over the terrain for a place to land its spear,
a vibration was in the smoke and stayed there
like a ribbon in mid-air...seconds as long as centuries...
sparks like fireflies now inside the safety tents…
When a fireman dies, people ask the father
and the rest of the crew what their emotions
are as though they are the only ones
with grief…but others are left behind
with eyes too tired to focus,
staring into nothingness...
silent, so the children won't hear them...
a word that sits at the back of the mind
in a tent of its own.
A Winner In The 2017 Rockford Review Writing Contest