Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of ONLY THE BRAVE

Only the Brave, rated PG-13
***

Only the Brave is a well-acted and directed film based on true events.
This film is based on Sean Flynn’s 2013 GQ Magazine story “No Exit: The Granite Mountain Yarnell Fire Investigation”. It is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who is rumored to be directing Tom Cruise’s upcoming Top Gun: Maverick. The screenplay is written by Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down), and the Oscar nominated writer Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), and it features a strong cast. The movie was filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The film is about an Arizona firefighting crew from Prescott, Arizona. They are led by superintendent Eric Marsh, played by Oscar nominated Josh Brolin (Milk). Marsh is married to Amanda, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind). We see marital tension in their relationship from the very beginning, primarily due to Eric’s demanding job, but we also see they deeply care for each other.
As the film opens, we see Eric interviewing new members for his crew. Among them are Brendan McDonough, played by Miles Teller (Whiplash). Brendan has made a mess of his life thus far (we see him taking drugs, getting in trouble with the law and getting kicked out of his Mom’s house). When he finds out that he is responsible for an ex-girlfriend getting pregnant, he decides to become responsible and interviews to be a member of Marsh’s crew. On the surface, there is no way that Marsh would take him, but he does. We later find out that the two have more in common than we would have believed, as much of the story focuses on the personal lives of Eric and Brendan.
Eric is trying to get his firefighters certified, which would make them the country’s first municipal Hotshot squad. Note: Hotshots are an elite group of forest firefighters who are specially trained and certified to go into areas already on fire. Without the certification, Eric’s crew is part of a second wave of firefighters behind the Hotshots.
Jeff Bridges, seven-time Oscar nominee and winner for Crazy Heart, delivers an excellent performance as Wildland Division Chief for the city of Prescott Duane Steinbrink. Bridges may get another Oscar nomination for his performance here. Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell portrays Steinbrink’s wife Marvel in a small role.

**SPOILER WARNING**

Duane is a father-figure to Marsh and is able to get Marsh an evaluation that could lead to his crew being certified. Although Marsh believes he has blown the evaluation when he treats the evaluator with a lack of respect, the crew is certified. They take as their name the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  After the brave crew saves an important local tree, they are welcomed back as heroes. The film culminates in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, 2013.
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Eric Marsh’s Buddhist faith is depicted briefly in the film and one of the Hotshots is shown reading the Bible a few times. The film is rated PG-13 for a significant amount of adult language, including the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. It also depicts intense scenes of dangerous forest fires, including scenes of the Hotshots in action, which are captured by cinematographer Claudio Miranda, Oscar winner for Life of Pi.  There were some children in the audience – my wife and I both thought that due to the language and serious subject matter that it would not be appropriate for kids under 10-12.
The film was released with wildfires currently in the news as more than 40 have died as a result of fires in Northern California. As a result, though this film is receiving excellent reviews from both critics and viewers, it performed poorly at the box office.
Although this film was slow-going early on, it included great scenes of hard work, sacrificial service, camaraderie and loyal friendship.  It is overall well-made and acted, and a fitting tribute to the heroism of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.


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My Review of the Movie “Hell or High Water”

Hell or High WaterHell or High Water, rated R
** ½

This film begins with brothers Toby (Chris “Captain Kirk” Pine) and older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) arriving early morning at a small Texas Midland Bank branch to rob it.  That same bank is going to foreclose soon on their recently deceased mother’s family ranch. She had taken out a reverse mortgage on the home to help with expenses in the poverty stricken area of West Texas. Now, the brothers owe the bank about $40,000 if they are going to keep the ranch in the family. The goal is to pay off the bank with the bank’s own money.

Tanner is recently out of prison and short-tempered. He had shot and killed the boys’ father in a “hunting accident”. Toby is divorced and well behind in child-support payments to his ex-wife. He would like to keep the ranch and put it in a trust for his two sons. Toby comes up with the plan for the bank robberies in which they only take small bills from the register to avoid dye packs and the interest of the FBI.  Toby also comes up with an ingenious plan to launder the money they steal.

Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges portrays Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton. He is a few weeks from retirement. His partner is Mexican/Comanche Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham. Hamilton continuously throws racist comments at Alberto, which come off humorously, as he obviously cares for his partner. There is good chemistry in the film between the two. As the FBI is not interested in the small-time robberies, Hamilton and Parker, begin to pursue the brothers.

The film is directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote 2015’s Sicario. It features good acting performances from Bridges and Pine, as well as a few extras in small roles, particularly two sassy waitresses played by Margaret Bowman (T-Bone) and Katy Mixon (diner).  There is quite a bit of music in the film, which is well handled by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Even though the film clocks in at less than two hours, it seems much longer as the film moves along sloooowly. It earns it’s “R” rating for language, including several abuses of God’s name, violence, and one brief scene of sexual content.  The film effectively portrays the poverty of West Texas and the hopelessness of the people living there (though the film was actually shot in New Mexico due to lower costs in New Mexico). The main characters were almost always drinking, usually beer, and everyone seemed dirty; badly in need of a shower.

The film also tries to portray the bank as the “bad guy” to try and make you cheer for successful bank robberies. It raises the moral question “Does the ends justify the means”?