I don’t have words to describe Only the Brave. I walked into the theater knowing the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and I left the theater feeling overwhelmed with raw emotion. This film is emotionally shattering and one that will make you ugly-cry due to the sheer tragedy that its story tells. This isn’t some fantasy story about young firefighters but rather a story that screams a harsh reality.
We enter the story with twenty buff hard-working men whose rugged looks and lifestyle are typical of a Southwestern working-class man. The women who accompany their lives take care of their family and scold their husbands about being gone all too often and the risks of their profession.
The story focuses on Eric Marsh (portrayed by Josh Brolin), a determined yet somewhat harsh supervisor who just wants a chance for his team to do what they are truly meant to do. Amid his training of the Hotshots we see a deeper yet conflicted relationship with his wife, who just wants to ensure the safety and well-being of her husband. Marsh, who is trying to recover from a rough past, is a new take and fascinating version of your typical everyday hero.
The redemption arc deals with the reckless and carefree drug addict Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller) who just can’t seem to catch a break. Tasked with the responsibility of becoming a father and trying to prove to his girlfriend that he is capable, he begins a journey of not only maturity, but also self-worth.
Through the film we get to know each character on a personal level which leads to the ultimate finale of the movie that is sure to break your heart. And while this film is not a story of triumph, it is an inspiring and heartfelt one that needs to be told.
The Yarnell Hill Fire:
- Ignited on June 28, 2013 because of a lightening strike
- By June 30th, strong winds had pushed the fire from just 300 acres to over 2,000 acres
- The Granite Mountain Hotshots were called in to help contain the fire on the western edge but by late afternoon the winds had shifted and a thunderstorm was approaching
- Marsh decided to pull his crew and stay in the black, which is the area where the fire had already burned. At the moment, Marsh and his crew were safe
- Due to the changing winds the fire changed direction and started to head toward the town of Yarnell. Marsh decided his crew should head back toward Yarnell to help control the roaring blaze
- The crew was making their way to Boulder Springs Ranch when tragedy struck. As they were heading into a basin they witnessed a fire that had burned four miles in less than 20 minutes
- They had two choices, either attempt to climb a steep hill to outrun the blaze or deploy their fire shelters on the basin floor
- With no where to go and hardly any radio communication, the Hotshots only option was to deploy their fire shelters. The fire was too hot and 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew died that day
- According to the National Fire Protection Association, the Yarnell Hill Fire is the greatest loss of firefighters since the September 11th attacks
There was one lone survivor from the 20-man Hotshot crew. Brendan McDonough had been serving as a lookout for his crew when the fire threatened to overtake his position. He was forced to evacuate on foot until he was picked up by Brian Frisby, the Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Hotshots. Frisby and his crew attempted to rescue the Granite Mountain Hotshots but were forced back due to the intensity of the fire. Him and his assistant were some of the first people to find the remains of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.
Dierks Bentley collaborated with S. Carey, Jon Randall, and film composer Joe Trapanese to write a beautiful tribute titled, “Hold the Light,” for the firefighters lost that day and for the tribute at the end of the film. Bentley and Carey wanted to ensure that the song’s lyrical message fit perfectly with the film’s theme so they worked closely with Only the Brave‘s composer, Trapanese. The result is an extremely moving and beautiful song. Bentley admitted that the song was perfect because it not only had a darkness to it but themes of holding onto the light and hope which was vital for when it played during the film.
“It is no longer the guilt of surviving that I carry with me, but the honor of knowing my brothers as you know them, as Heroes.” – Brendan McDonough
Read the true story that inspired Only the Brave here: https://www.gq.com/story/granite-mountain-hotshots-firefighters-only-the-brave