Only the Brave

by Justin Johnson

Only the Brave is a rare treat of a movie that I highly recommend seeing.  Three reasons this movie is so appealing, first the true-life story (of Granite Mountain Hot Shots) has a lot of depth and characters whose real-life story requires no embellishment.  Second, the stars clearly enjoyed their roles, it was just plain fun to see them bring to life their real-life counterparts.  Third, the scenes featuring prominent New Mexico landscapes always bring a special joy for this reviewer.  Going into this movie, I certainly did not expect it to be as good as it was.  I was expecting a movie more like Sully or Patriots Day, amazing events without much depth for a full-length story.  Enjoyable movies, but missing something that Only the Brave captured.

To expand a bit on my first premise, I kept saying to myself, I am going to have to google that… and sure enough every bit of this story holds true.  I don’t want to spoil it, but its amazing how much depth of character the real-life story holds.  And how well this lends itself to an enjoyable script, wait, that’s the criticism.  The writers had it easy!  Not only did the real-life characters have a great story to tell, but based on the hot shots at the screening, they also nailed real life firefighting.  So you get realism, you get amazing characters, all part of a story that is very compelling.   This probably led the actors to bring the characters to screen with such joy.  There is a drawback to all this, the movie is both enjoyable but also brutal.  Anyone who knows the story expects this, but I was not very familiar with the original story, so many parts were hard hitting.  And the movie is longer, a little over two hours so some of the harder parts are not exactly short.

In the end, it’s not necessarily a drawback because you are so into the movie at this point, just be prepared to have some heart strings pulled.  Now I don’t want to mislead you into thinking the movie is more than it is either.  However, when you expect a story about some firefighters who die in a fire turned into a 2-hour movie (like a plane landing in the Hudson turned into a 2-hour movie), you expect a bit of slow drama development.  So perhaps some false expectations fueled this higher than expected rating, but I really enjoyed my movie going experience.  There is hope, redemption, grace, and plenty of faith moments to really drive home eternal values in this one so don’t miss the opportunity to explore those with friends and family should you make the visit to a theater this weekend.


6 out of 7 – rated PG13 with some drug use and foul language, but a good story that teen audiences will resonate with, something I would enjoy taking my kids to when they are a bit older.