Only the Brave: What You Need To Know
The summer months can bring some idyllic hot weather to many parts of the globe, which might sound like a dream to those of us living in more temperate climes, but the high temperatures can also bring about some deadly hazards. Not least of these is the threat of raging wildfires, which have long been an annual fixture of the summer months in some locations, particularly those in hot, dry areas such as the Australian outback and the warmer states of the US. Last year, California alone saw more than 9,000 individual fires, destroying some 1.3 million acres of land and property, causing over 40 fatalities and more than 200 injuries, all at an estimated cost of $180 billion.
In the US, the first line of defence against these blazes is a series of elite fire crews known as 'hotshots'; 20-man teams of firefighters trained to the highest standards and dispatched all over the country whenever and wherever they are needed, risking life and limb on a daily basis to keep people safe.
Many members of the public may not even be aware of their existence, but in 2013 the dangerous work of these highly-skilled firefighters was highlighted in tragic fashion when 19 members of Arizona's Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in a deadly blaze known as the Yarnell Hill Fire, which tore across the state of Arizona and ended up as one of the most lethal wildfires in American History.
Last year saw the release of Only the Brave, a film depicting the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, their heroic efforts to contain the fire and the tragic loss of life incurred as a result. The film arrives in stores this week on DVD and Blu-ray, here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
The film features an impressive ensemble cast that includes Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, Jennifer Connelly, Andie McDowell, Geoff Stults and Ben Hardy.
And who's directing?
Joseph Kosinski, best-known as the director of Tron: Legacy, is the man calling the shots on this one.
What's the plot?
The events of June 30th 2013 itself are well-documented, but Kosinski's film takes us through the months and years leading up to the fire on Yarnell Hill near the Arizona town of Prescott where the Granite Mountain crew were based.
The crew is led by Eric Marsh (Brolin), a man who had been instrumental in marshalling his crew until they were promoted to the elite rank of Type 1 firefighters known as hotshots in 2008. Many of the crew had been working together for years by then, but their classification as hotshots led to the 20-man group effectively being on call for eight months of the year during wildfire season. We also witness the Granite Mountain crew successfully battling earlier blazes, including the so-called Horseshoe 2 fire of 2011 in southern Arizona.
During the early months of 2013, the state of Arizona had been experiencing a severe drought, turning large areas of the forested mountain which bore the crew's name into a tinderbox of brush and bone dry trees.
When a thunderstorm in late June triggers a handful of small fires, the situation doesn't look too severe, but when one of them grows to 100 acres the crew are dispatched to the scene to begin containment efforts. But with the crew half a mile or so away from the blaze then the wind picks up and the fire changes direction, heading towards the town of Yarnell. Marsh and his crew are presented with an impossible choice; stay in the ash where the chances of being caught in the fire are practically nil and watch the town burn, or try to get themselves in between the blaze and the town's buildings. They choose the latter option, only to find that the fire has ripped through four miles of brush in approximately 20 minutes, trapping 19 of the 20-man crew in an impossible situation, with tragic results.
Does it deliver?
The filmmakers have clearly worked hard to ensure that the events of June 30th are represented as accurately as possible, using records of the resulting investigation reports and a series of interviews with those close to the situation – including Granite Mountain's sole survivor, Brendan 'Donut' McDonough – as the basis for the film's narrative.
Kosinski has said that he was keen to portray the idea that not all heroes carry guns, and as much as the film is about the firefighters' heroic actions that day, it's also a film about brotherhood and camaraderie, something which is tangible as a result of the many excellent performances from the talented cast. Understandably, some members of the families affected have no wish to relive the events in the film, but those brave enough to watch have praised the way in which the story is told and while a little artistic licence applies to the earlier parts of the film, this is nevertheless a stirring and emotive tribute to the efforts of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and others like them.
Only the Brave is available in stores from Monday (March 12th), you can also find it here in our online store.