Only the Brave feels like a film that would have made sense coming from Peter Berg or Michael Bay, but Kosinski mostly pulls back on the macho cheerleading to find something more objective, and ultimately, deeply emotional.
Though the movie, based on an article in GQ, by Sean Flynn, offers fascinating insights into the practical exertions and bureaucratic complications of firefighting, it places much greater emphasis on the protagonists' personal lives.
Although probably a little too long, the film succeeds in being both emotionally forceful and dramatically satisfying.
Kosinski lets the story unfold at a measured pace - so much so that by the time we reach the climactic scene, we're unprepared for what unfolds. As a result, it's even more devastating and effective.
It's a movie intent on telling us the hotshots were heroes, without sufficiently dramatizing either their professional decisions or their private lives.
Director Joseph Kosinski puts the brotherhood of the unit front and center, emphasizing the bonds forged over sweat and soot. He directs with a sense of duty to honor the crew, and he does the job.
While "Only the Brave" is consistently involving and entertaining, [its] desire to be accurate about a heroic reality proves to be an at times awkward fit with the conventions of this kind of earnest and old-fashioned Hollywood film.
The movie overall can feel more than a little formulaic, but as a tribute to real-life heroes, Only the Brave serves its purpose.
What goes down in Yarnell, and Kosinski's respectful portrayal of it, is undeniably devastating - and a well-deserved salute to a group of low-key heroes.