‘Only the Brave’ Film Review
Only brave souls dare see this movie
By Matt Lewis
Publisher & Editor
Editor’s note: This film was based on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, 19 of whom perished in the Yarnell Hill fire, southwest of Prescott, Ariz. The fire made national news as the largest loss of life for firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001.
Also: Yes, I acknowledge that most people get their movie reviews from friends or Rotten Tomatoes these days; so, you may ask why you should read this one – the short answer: my unique perspective.
As a child, I used to want to be a fireman when I grew up. I even went to fire camp at the Phoenix Fire Museum one summer. I also dated a young lady whose father was a high-ranking member of a major metropolitan fire department. Plus, being a native Arizonan, who has been to Prescott (and the surrounding areas), I have a personal connection to my state’s infamous fire. And finally, as a freelance journalist, I followed news of the Yarnell Hill fire and Granite Mountain Hotshots saga.
REVIEW – Either I never fully understood how beautiful the state of Arizona is, or I forgot. The movie ‘Only the Brave’* helped me see the grand mountain vistas northern Arizonans see daily.
As a native Arizonan, I battle heat several months out of the year; but it is nothing compared with the awe-inspiring danger the Hotshot firefighters face when they take on some of the country’s largest blazes.
The film has a great rhythm, and starts by setting the scene with a grizzly bear engulfed in flames; which serves as a motif through out and foreshadows a forgone conclusion.
As the reviewer for the Arizona Republic/azcentral Billy Goodykoontz put it in his take on the movie – what makes the movie work so well is the director and screenwriters did not produce another hero-flick, based on a true story; but depicted these men as they were: cowboys and renegades, heroes with very human flaws.
I could connect with these men in a surprising way, given the only fire I have ever fought was when I burnt something in the oven.
After seeing the movie, one woman exclaimed she was going to tell others she had red eyes and runny mascara after leaving the theater; adding: “What a great movie.” My rating is similar.
Although this is a fictional account, I got a bit misty-eyed. The characters felt real. The tragedy was refreshed and painful again, despite a laock of any personal connection with those involved.
What struck me about the movie was the rustic beauty of a smaller town I once fell in love with on a visit. The location scouts did a wonderful job, even prominently displaying a staple of Prescott’s famed Whiskey Row, Matt’s Saloon.
I was also in awe of the fearsome, yet majestic scenes of swirling embers and raging flames. And while the film did not include narration, the notion of magical realism ** seemed to ring as an apt description for the potrayal of this historical event. The ability of the cast and crew to retell this story was impressive. Ample research and interviews were undoubtedly conducted to ensure a more authentic final product.
* The URL web address (blue underlined text) connects to Internet Movie Database – IMDB’s information about the movie.
** The literary concept of magical realism is: “characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction,” according to the online encyclopedia Britannica.
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