Only the Brave - DVD Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray / Media Reviews' started by Michael Scott, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Moderator / Reviewer
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    Apr 4, 2017
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    Only the Brave

    Movie: :4.5stars:
    Video: :4stars:
    Audio: :4stars:
    Extras: :3stars:
    Final Score: :4stars:

    [​IMG] Movie

    I almost missed Only the Brave completely when it was in theaters. The film came out with minimal publicity, and faded from theaters in a matter of weeks as the general public didn’t turn out in droves to see the dramatic film, even though it was given massive critical acclaim during its short run. The story itself hits close to home, as it was based off of the infamous Yarnell Hill fire that swept Arizona around 2013. A fire that came within a few hundred miles of me and my family during that time period. I still remember watching the glow off in the distance, and listening to the live broadcasts as they described the affected areas and whether it was going to swing in our direction. I know it wasn’t as devastating as the fires that swept Northern California and Oregon this last winter, but it was still during a time when fires were sweeping Arizona with a rabid fury, leaving the entire area smelling of burning mesquite for months on end. Being in Arizona, fires are a comparatively common occurrence, and a way of life for us in the dry desert, but 2013 was a bad time for this type of thing.

    Only the Brave tells the story of the 20 men elite team of fire fighters who lost their life in the Yarnell Hill fire in 2013, and it does so quite well. I’m usually very suspicious of movies titled “based off of a true story”, as usually the only thing TRUE about the movie is the title, and maybe the basic idea behind the plot. However, Only the Brave is actually incredibly accurate for a majority of the film. Sure, there are some manufactured tension, and chronology of events are shifted around (as well as blending of a couple minor characters), but the actual events of the Yarnell fire, and how it is portrayed on film is amazingly accurate.

    Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) is a veteran firefighter in Prescott, Arizona, and he is dealing with the precursor to the fire that we all know is coming. He’s frustrated at being passed over by the “hotshots” (the Navy Seal elite firefighters who are trained to actually go up to forest fires and take them on in the front lines), and he intends to change that. Putting together a 20 man crew (including himself), Marsh plans on creating the country's first municipal squad of hotshots to combat the copious fires that crop up in Arizona (usually hotshots are relegated to the national forest service, or other larger organizations as the municipal level is your regular firefighters). But, his work is all consuming and he and his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) is starting to feel the strain of a living with a man obsessed with his work. Pulling in his most trusted men, and hiring some new recruits, Marsh begins to form a squad of men who will be the best of the best in putting out fires on location in Prescott.
    Wanting to do something like this, and achieving something are completely different things. Marsh is particular about who he choose, but for some reason he sees potential in ex drug addict Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller). Brendan is a druggie coming off a lifetime of bad decisions, but when his girlfriend gives birth to a baby girl, the man decides to shape up and join up with Marsh in order to provide a stable living for his daughter. Barely meshing into the now 20 man crew, the junkie has to push outside of his comfort zone and truly become part of something bigger than himself.

    The movie itself is incredibly powerful. I know people say that a movie is “powerful” a lot, but this one really is. I haven’t been this enthralled with a drama in quite some time. Brolin is an amazing actor and he did a good job of portraying the rough and tumble Eric Marsh. Miles Teller actually REALLY impressed me as Brendan Mcdonough. Teller was once a rising start in his teen years, and everyone expected him to be the next giant movie star, but for some reason when he got into adulthood, he started to fade from the spotlight. Usually relegating himself to indie films, or military dramas, Teller really absorbs himself into his new role and puts on a performance that is incredibly impactful.

    I have done extensive research into the true life story, and actually read the book a while back, so I’m rather familiar about what went on. Most of the movie is actually really accurate to the book. At least in the parts that count. That is, the fire itself. The first 2 acts of the movie is actually not about the fire, but about the creation of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and the interpersonal drama that binds this group of men together. And it’s this portion that tends to be a bit hit or miss. There’s some shifting of chronology with men coming and going from the unit, and some definitely manufactured tension to push the story along. One of the biggest examples was the outburst from Marsh to Brendan when the young man asked to leave the unit and move to the structural side of fire fighting because he wanted to be closer to his family. In the movie Marsh blows up at him and chews the young man out for “betraying him” (which sets up the argument between himself and Amanda in the next scene, which is also another scene that holds no basis in reality), when in reality that wasn’t even remotely how Marsh reacted. In fact, Marsh had given Brendan his blessing saying “that you have to do what you have to do for your family”. Still, most of what happens is fairly accurate, with director Joseph Kosinski having an amazing eye for recreating the scenarios down to the T. The Granite Mountain Hotshots’ base of operation was created to look EXACTLY like the real life building, right down to the chairs used, and the scrawlings on the wall from the men.

    The fire itself is a fantastic (but oh so painful) section of the movie, as we all know what is going to happen to them out there, but probably the most accurate act of the film. The dialog was actually lifted from the radio reports of the men when they went into the inferno, and is near beat for beat with what happened out there. All 20 men of the original crew is given a role in the film, with actors playing each and every one of them. Most of them are only given a line or two, or just show up as background to Eric Marsh and a few others, but each of the men are named and played on screen as well. It’s a slow and steady build from beginning to end, but the payoff is well worth with the drama building up to a near breaking point just before the tear inducing final act.


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

    Video: :4stars:
    It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve had to do a DVD and a Blu-ray review of the same film. Usually it’s Blu-ray vs. 4K UHD, so it was interesting to watch the Blu-ray and then compare the encode against its 480p counterpart. The incredibly vibrant and unique look of the film is replicated on the DVD, but with some definite softness in the DVD-9, with some prominent macroblocking to coincide with the aliasing from the Blu-ray. Colors are warm and rich, with the varying shades of green, dusty brown of the desert, and the hellish orange of the flames contrasting each other quite well. Fine detail is good, with the daylight shots showing some of the finest detail, while the black levels tend to be a bit washed out with the greenish filter used. Skin tones are very natural, and contrast remains evenly balanced throughout the 2 hour and 14 minute film.

    Audio: :3.5stars:
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital track isn’t as ferocious and wide open as the well done lossless DTS-HD MA mix of the Blu-ray, but it is still quite a powerhouse of a track. The thundering roar of the helicopter rotors makes a deep and weighty impact in the opening shot, and while there are some dramatic moments with not a whole lot going on in the surround channels, the film has more than enough engrossing bits that really use all 6 channels with much aplomb. Bees rushing out of a rotten log, the roaring of the fire, and even the sounds of the nervous family members in a large auditorium fill out the side channels with more than enough activity to keep it exciting. I did feel that the Dolby Digital track is distinctly less “full” than the more robust lossless track, but for a DVD Dolby Digital track it was more than capable of getting the job done.

    Extras: :3stars:

    • Deleted Scenes
    • Feature Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Kosinski and Josh Brolin
    • Featurettes:
    - "Honoring the Heroes: The True Stories"
    - "Behind the Brotherhood: The Characters"
    - "Boot Camp: Becoming a Hotshot"
    • Dierks Bentley featuring S. Carey's "Hold The Light" Music Video & Featurett

    Final Score: :4stars:

    I really wanted to like Only the Brave due to it hitting so close to home with me personally, but I was really unprepared for how good the film would actually be. There’s some minor “tension” that was fabricated between the men’s interpersonal lives, but the actual events of the fire and how it played out was extremely accurate, and complete heart wrenching. I watched the 2 hour and 14 minute film as if it was a short 60 minute movie, as time flew by and I went from really enjoying the drama, to sitting on the edge of my seat with both hands showing white knuckles. Audio and video are excellent on the DVD, and the array of extras is quite revealing to what really happened, and just how accurate the movie really was in regards to these men’s final days on earth. Highly recommended.

    Technical Specifications:

    Starring: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges
    Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
    Written by: Sean Flynn (based on the GQ article by), Ken Nolan
    Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Mpeg2
    Audio: English: DD 5.1, French DD 5.1
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
    Studio: Sony
    Rated: PG-13
    Runtime: 134 minutes
    Blu-Ray Release Date: February 6th, 2018

    Recommendation: Highly Recommended

    #1 Michael Scott, Feb 8, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
    tripplej likes this.
  2. tripplej

    tripplej AV Enthusiast

    Jul 13, 2017
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    Thanks for the review. A movie worth watching. Will check it out. :)

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