Mission Lab 2018

REVIEW: ‘Only The Brave’ is a wonderful story, but it’s not family-friendly

October 27th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Only The Brave’ is a wonderful story, but it’s not family-friendly

Eric Marsh is a 40-something Arizona man who wants only one thing in life: to fight wildfires. But he doesn’t want to be a member of just any firefighting crew. He wants to be part of a “hotshot” team – those elite-and-talented 20-member crews that regularly risk their lives to stop wildfires in their tracks.  

Marsh trained months and months for this role, and he finally got his chance when the mayor and city council agreed to fund a crew that Marsh will head. If they gel as a team and then get certified, they will become one of only about 100 hotshot crews in the nation -- and they will be responsible for protecting their hometown, too.

It’s the true story behind Only The Brave (PG-13), which is currently in theaters and recounts the inspiring-but-tragic story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who defied the odds to get certified and then fought valiantly against an out-of-control 2013 wildfire that claimed 19 lives.

It stars Josh Brolin as Marsh; Jennifer Connelly as his wife, Amanda; Miles Teller as his crewmate, Brendan McDonough; and Jeff Bridges as his mentor, Duane Steinbrink.

Only The Brave is a biopic unlike any I have seen. Even though I knew how it would end, I cried like a baby the final five minutes. It spotlights the traditional family in ways that most PG-13 films don’t, and it even has a pro-life angle. The amazing special effects – which make you feel as if you’re in the middle of a fire -- don’t get in the way of the story.

That said, this one has quite a bit of coarse language. Let’s examine the details:

Warning: spoilers!  

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. We see people, within town, running from an approaching fire. Yet the Granite Mountain Boys run toward the fire – and often find themselves in dangerous situations. It’s incredible (and intense) to watch. Later, Marsh violently breaks an office chair after he gets upset. We see a car crash. Finally, a group of firefighters dies in a wildfire, although we don’t see it occur. We do, though, see family members cry as they await word on their loved ones.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Moderate. Marsh and his wife kiss a couple of times. We see them relaxing in a large bathtub together, but only from the shoulders-up. We hear crude sex talk from one of the members (“hooked up,” etc.) and we see a picture of a scantily dressed girl. Later in the film, though, this same crew member has matured and has a different outlook on women.

Coarse Language

Extreme. I counted about 70 coarse words: s—t (30); a— (15); pi-s (3); OMG (1); GD (5); d—n (7); he—(3) misuse of “God” (1); b—ch (3); misuse of “Lord” (1); JC (1); f-word (2); misuse of “Jesus” (1). There also are at least two instances of firefighters jokingly giving the middle finger.

Other Positive Elements

Despite the coarse language, Only The Brave has a remarkably pro-family theme, as the members prioritize their wives and kids as much as their crazy schedule will allow. We see a firefighter kiss his children before he gets in the truck to leave. Later, we see another hotshot member reading “Good Night Moon” to his child over the phone.

Perhaps the most remarkable family angle involves Brendan, who transforms from unemployed pot smoker to responsible hotshot – all so what he can take care of a baby girl he fathered out of wedlock. The mom chose to keep the baby but initially didn’t want him involved. He places diapers and formula outside the mom’s front door. Eventually, he and the mom get back together, and he becomes a loving father.

We also see a character read the Bible on multiple occasions and briefly discuss it with others.   

Other Negative Elements

We see Brendan smoke marijuana.

Life Lessons

Only The Brave gives us powerful lessons on self-sacrifice (the entire team), brotherhood (the entire team), redemption (Brendan) and responsibility and manhood (Brendan).   

Worldview

I don’t know how many of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were Christian, but their actions reflect what Scripture teaches. Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Paul added, “Count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Of course, the hotshots also were fulfilling one of government’s God-given roles (protecting its citizens), but consider what society would be like without first responders. We would have no police, no ambulances, no firefighters, no hotshots. And society would crumble.  

Family-Friendly?

This one has too much coarse language. It’s not family-friendly.

What I Liked

The way the story and the special effects were woven together (take note, Hollywood). I also liked the family-centric nature of most of the characters.

What I Didn’t Like

The excessive language. I didn’t expect a G-movie, but a count of 70 is too high. Incidentally, most of the language occurs when the men are not fighting fires.

Discussion Questions

  1. What drives someone to become a hotshot or first responder?
  2. What caused Brendan to stop smoking pot?
  3. Would you consider this a pro-traditional family movie, despite the language?
  4. How would society be different if every man who had a child out of wedlock was like Brendan?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Only The Brave is rated PG-13 for thematic content, some sexual references, language and drug material.