In the spirit of being honest, I admit to making bad choices before seeing the movie.

I hadn’t eaten lunch. Or dinner. So popcorn and soda were my only sustenance.

And I’d gone to bed way too late the night before. I was tired. Like, yawning-tired.

FOOD/DRINK BEFORE SCREENING: movie theater popcorn and Coke

MOOD: Tired


I also had low expectations because generally speaking; I’ve found disaster movies with all-star casts disappointing.

But when the lights went down and Only The Brave started, it was clearly something different.

Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the film is primarily set in Prescott, Arizona.

I worked in Phoenix for three years and covered a lot of wildfires. I was impressed by how authentic the movie felt – from the crews on the lines, to the communities impacted by the fires. Filmmakers worked with a former Granite Mountain Hotshot as a consultant, and his input seems to have made a real impact.

The performances also made an impact, particularly Josh Brolin (who plays the supervisor) and Jennifer Connelly (who plays his wife.) Theirs is a passionate but tempestuous marriage, encapsulated in one emotionally raw scene shot inside the cab of a pickup truck.

I applaud the movie for going there – showing that heroes are still fallible. By not sugarcoating characters, their deaths and losses are even more tragic at the end.

Miles Teller plays another imperfect hero and is very moving in what’s ultimately a restrained performance.

His foil, played by Taylor Kitsch, is also memorable. I fell in love with him because of his faults, not despite them.

That’s why the movie works so well. Special effects don’t dominate the screen – simple emotions do.

Where other disaster films tend to over-dramatize events that are inherently dramatic, Only The Brave lets the timeline unfold, unencumbered. I never felt like I was being manipulated by over-written dialogue or tricky editing. And the terrible fate that befalls the 19 firefighters is no bigger or flashier than any other fire in the movie.

But it’s still the most jarring and devastating.

I can’t imagine what it will be like for the families of hotshots to watch the movie, but it was deeply affecting for me. It exceeded my low expectations to the degree that I may now have high expectations for the next disaster movie I watch.

Despite my hunger and exhaustion, I was all-in for this 2-hour 14-minute movie. It’s excellent – a difficult story to tell told with grace and humanity.


I’m a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I interview actors and filmmakers. I’ve worked in broadcast television for 20 years.

I’m also a Seattle wife and mom who works full-time and sits in an hour of traffic (minimum) every day.

Sometimes I’m tired when I screen a movie. Sometimes I’m traveling, and I miss my kids. Sometimes I’ve had a glass wine when I should have had a glass of water.

All of these things can impact my reaction to a film. Because I’m human.

So in an effort to write an Honest Review, I’ll always list the external factors that might affect my enjoyment of the movie. Then, I’ll give you my review. Then, you can decide if it’s useful or not.

What do you think of Honest Review or Only The Brave? Let me know at @kimholcomb.