Only The Brave has some heart. I almost got teary eyed during the finale after having spent lots of time getting to know the Hotshots crew. Its personality initially plays like a heftier firefighting version of Top Gun. Only a version that I actually liked. (It’s good to know the long gestating sequel is in this director’s hands.) These “Hotshots” are simple and straightforward archetypes with Taylor Kitsch taking on a role proving his charisma in a space that would otherwise be occupied by an unlikable C-Lister. Miles Teller too is more likable than usual in a movie star role; opposite Josh Brolin he proves to be the most likable character despite being the most flawed. Brolin leans into his authority but remains short on charisma, his other screen partner offers a great supporting role for Academy Award Winning Supporting Actress Jennifer Connelly who plays more than just some thankless wife.
If there’s any absent element here, despite being miles better than director Joseph Kosinski’s previous films “Tron & Oblivion” it is that the best recurring elements from those movies aren’t here. There is no awesome memorable electronic soundtrack accompanying composer Joseph Trapanese’s workmanlike score. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda continues to trail blaze for digital photography offering up a few striking images like an ashen overhead shot of post fire devastation that calls to mind Oblivion. A few cuts especially one throwaway ranch closeup are flawless and interesting experiments in shadows and low light are interesting and crisp enough to make me think I should evaluate my local theatre projection capabilities. It is a 4K movie shot in that source format without being up-converted and deserves to be seen in no less a state than 4x’s 1080p.
What is most welcome, is how Brave takes its time to breathe and isn’t saccharine or preachy. Apart from a bellowing and distracting Jeff Bridges performance that shows he’s coasting as an actor at this point, Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle) scripting with Ken Nolan brings some personality from a movie that had too much into one here that desperately needs it and the result is a movie that is both mature is its performances and an old-fashioned throwback. It is a movie worth watching.
- I thought this would play like a similarly try-hard Fall flavoured Sony flick Fury (Columbia Pictures is having a banner year btw) but thankfully not only is Kosinski more ambitious than Ayer but it’s also a tad more original.
- This is a unique case where a director more removed from the material ends up landing more emotionally than someone like Michael Bay or Peter Berg would have leaned into the material. This angle places quite a bit on the actors but fortunately they are up to the task.