Movie review: 'Only the Brave'

Resolute film depicts the heroes in our midst


A few highly detailed and compelling-to-read articles have been written about what happened to the Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013. In fact, one of them, titled “No Exit” by journalist Sean Flynn published in GQ magazine (, was so vivid it became a basis for the just-released film about the tragedy that day that took the lives of 19 of their members.

Director John Kosinski’s inspirational drama – starring Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly – uses the first portion of the movie to chronicle the efforts of a crew of municipal firefighters for the city of Prescott, Arizona, to become certified as “Type 1,” or Hotshots. And, like any number of “based on a true story” movies, we are led through a series of sequences that illustrates how each member of the crew grows from various conflicts to become a cohesive unit, one that stresses the absolute need to count on one another for support during long hours of tedious work and rare moments of stress and possible danger.

While some present-day families and loved ones of the late crew have criticized the film for generalizing and making up some aspects of their lives, Kosinski’s job was to condense and shape the events to fit into a story he could tell with a beginning, middle and end. Yes, that is unfortunate, especially for those who would have liked to see a more thorough depiction. But, Kosinski’s job is to also stay as true to the spirit of the tale as possible in order to show the audience what challenges, both physical and personal, they endured in the time left to them. In doing so, in this writer’s opinion, he has honored them.

“Only the Brave” must, as a filmmaker’s necessity, single out a handful of characters through whose eyes we see the story play out. Of them, we learn about Brendan McDonough (Teller) — nicknamed “Donut” — and his battle with substance abuse before deciding to sober up when he learns his girlfriend has become pregnant. Donut, who is seen struggling to live up to the crew’s high standards and eventually succeeds, was assigned a lookout duty that fateful day.

We also learn about Granite Mountain Hotshots Supervisor Eric Marsh (Brolin) and his wife, Amanda (Connelly), who deal with the challenges of long days away from each other and the harsh realities of lost opportunities for feeling settled down with home and family. There’s also Duane Steinbrink (Bridges), a fictionalized character probably combining the attributes of several people, who serves as a father figure to the Hotshots.

Obviously, the risk of starting a real wildfire just for a movie would be too great, so the filmmakers resorted to using a mix of practical and digital effects. Their efforts are stunning and genuinely frightening, especially at the end.

This movie’s release comes at a time when Northern California is experiencing several dangerous wildfires that have claimed the lives of at least 42 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in the region’s wine country. Its timing could be considered unfortunate, but in another way, it might also help the public understand and appreciate the tremendous skill, experience and stamina required to fight fires like this.

Although the film is set in Arizona, it was shot in New Mexico around the Santa Fe-Los Alamos area. The costume designer was Taos’ own Louise Mingenbach.

“Only the Brave” is rated PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language and drug material. It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials.

‘Battle of the Sexes’

MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity

Mitchell Storyteller 7

In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and ex-men’s champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the “Battle of the Sexes” and became one of the most-watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers aroundthe world.

As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off the court, each was fighting more personal and complex battles. The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed.

And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons – at the expense of his family and wife, Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue). Together, King and  Riggs served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit


MPAA rating: PG-13 for destruction, action and violence

Mitchell Storyteller 7

When catastrophic climate change endangers Earth’s very survival, world governments unite and create the Dutch Boy Program, a worldwide net of satellites, surrounding the planet, armed with geoengineering technologies designed to stave off the natural disasters. After successfully protecting the planet for two years, something isstarting to go wrong.

Two estranged brothers, Jake and Max Lawson (Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess), are tasked with solving the program’s malfunction before a worldwide “geostorm” can engulf the planet. Although the film’s credits list Dean Devlin as first-time director, his longtime experience with disaster master Roland Emmerich (“The Day After Tomorrow,” “2012,” “Independence Day”) definitely shows.

Co-stars include Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Mare Winningham and Richard Schiff.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit

‘A Ghost Story’

MPAA rating: R for brief language and a disturbing image

Movies at the TCA

Acclaimed director David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss and the essential human longing for meaning and connection.

Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state, he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away.

Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, “A Ghost Story” emerges ecstatic and surreal, a wholly unique experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 29) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 30-Nov. 1).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit