Only the Brave (2017 film)

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Only the Brave
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Kosinski
Screenplay byKen Nolan
Eric Warren Singer
Based onGQ article "No Exit"
by Sean Flynn[1]
Produced by
CinematographyClaudio Miranda
Edited byBilly Fox
Music byJoseph Trapanese
Distributed by
Release dates
  • October 8, 2017 (2017-10-08) (Los Angeles)
  • October 20, 2017 (2017-10-20) (United States)
Running time
133 minutes[4]
CountryUnited States
Budget$38 million[3]
Box office$26.3 million[3]

Only the Brave, originally titled Granite Mountain and subtitled as Only the Brave: The True Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in previews, is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by Joseph Kosinski, and written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, based on the GQ article "No Exit" by Sean Flynn.[1] The film tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of firefighters from Prescott, Arizona who lost 19 of 20 members while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013, and is dedicated to their memory. It features an ensemble cast, including Josh Brolin, James Badge Dale, Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Alex Russell, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Hardy, Thad Luckinbill, Geoff Stults, Scott Haze, Andie MacDowell, and Jennifer Connelly.

Principal photography began in New Mexico in June 2016. Only the Brave was released by Columbia Pictures in North America and by Summit Entertainment in other territories on October 20, 2017. The film was a box-office bomb, grossing just $26.3 million worldwide against a $38 million budget. However, it received positive reviews, with praise for the cast and the film's touching tribute to its subjects.[5] The film is dedicated to the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their families.


Fire and Rescue Crew 7 of Prescott, Arizona, superintended by Eric Marsh, responds to the Cave Creek wildfire. Eric predicts that the fire will threaten a residential area, but is disregarded by the assigned superintendent. Eric's fear comes true; he vents his frustration to fire chief and close friend Duane Steinbrink, warning that when a wildfire threatens Prescott, his crew will not be allowed to fight it directly as they lack Hotshot certification. Eric asks for Duane's help, who successfully vouches for the crew with the mayor of Prescott. Crew 7 has until the end of the fire season to pass the evaluation.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old heroin addict Brendan McDonough learns that his ex-girlfriend Natalie is pregnant and does not want him involved with the child. Brendan is arrested for larceny, which prompts his mother to evict him from her house. Determined to provide support for his newborn daughter, Brendan interviews with Eric, who gives him an opportunity. After months of training, the crew are given an evaluation during a wildfire deployment. Eric commands his crew but is criticized by their evaluator, Hayes, who Eric bluntly disregards. The fire is halted by Eric's strategy and the crew are certified, officially becoming the first municipal hotshot crew in history, the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Throughout the season, Granite Mountain are deployed across the country. Brendan is accepted by Natalie and is allowed to see his daughter. Near Prescott, the crew saves a landmark Alligator juniper and are hailed as local heroes. During the fire, Brendan is bitten by a rattlesnake but survives. Brendan expresses his concerns to Eric and asks if he would recommend him for a structural firefighting position next season. Eric snaps, stating that nobody would hire him. Eric later has an argument with his wife Amanda, who has long resented Eric's obsession with his job and for placing her desire to start a family on indefinite hold. After speaking with Duane, Eric returns to Amanda, announcing that he is ready to settle down.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots are called to the Yarnell Hill Fire. Eric informs his captain, Jesse Steed, that he will step down as superintendent after this season and offers Jesse his job. Eric also apologizes to Brendan and promises that he will help him with the transfer. The crew assembles a controlled burn, but is doused mistakenly by an airtanker. Sending Brendan as lookout, the remaining crew moves to find another suitable location. The wind suddenly shifts, and the fire jumps a trigger point. Brendan is rescued by another hotshot crew while the others relocate to a safe zone, but the fire's speed and intensity continues to increase.

The wind picks up again, jumping Granite Mountain's safe zone; cutting them off from escape. Clearing a small site quickly, Eric attempts to douse the blaze with an overhead airtanker, but it misses the drop zone. The crew deploys under their fire shelters as the fire sweeps over them. Brendan listens into the radio traffic, and is devastated when a call finally comes in from the first responders who arrive at their shelters; all 19 of his crewmates have perished. Though the information is treated sensitively, rumors flare amongst the devastated families of what has happened. Brendan, being the sole survivor demands to meet with them at the gather point at Prescott Middle School. Upon arriving, the families worst fears are confirmed, with Brendan suffering a psychological breakdown due to survivors guilt.

Three years later, Brendan takes his daughter to the juniper tree Granite Mountain saved, now adorned as a memorial to the hotshots. The ending credits detail that the film is dedicated to fallen hotshots and notes that the Yarnell Hill Fire was the largest loss of firefighters in a single day since the September 11th attacks.


  • Josh Brolin as Eric Marsh
  • Miles Teller as Brendan McDonough
  • Jeff Bridges as Duane Steinbrink
  • Jennifer Connelly as Amanda Marsh
  • Andie MacDowell as Marvel Steinbrink
  • Alex Russell as Andrew Ashcraft
  • Dylan Kenin as Robert Caldwell
  • Scott Foxx as Travis Carter
  • Ryan Busch as Dustin DeFord
  • Taylor Kitsch as Christopher MacKenzie
  • Sam Quinn as Grant McKee
  • Kenny Miller as Sean Misner
  • Thad Luckinbill as Scott Norris
  • Ben Hardy as Wade Parker
  • Nicholas Jenks as John Percin Jr.
  • Jake Picking as Anthony Rose
  • James Badge Dale as Jesse Steed
  • Matthew Van Wettering as Joe Thurston
  • Geoff Stults as Travis Turbyfill
  • Ryan Jason Cook as William Warneke
  • Scott Haze as Clayton Whitted
  • Michael McNulty as Kevin Woyjeck
  • Brandon Bunch as Garret Zuppiger
  • Brytnee Ratledge as Juliann Ashcraft
  • Pell James as Claire Caldwell
  • Natalie Hall as Natalie Johnson
  • Jenny Gabrielle as Desiree Steed
  • Barbie Robertson as Marsena Thurston
  • Jade Kammerman as Stephanie Turbyfill
  • Howard Ferguson Jr. as Brian Ferguson
  • Rachel Singer as Brendan's mother
  • Ralph Alderman as Evaluator Hayes


On March 1, 2016, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller joined the cast of the film.[6] Jeff Bridges and Taylor Kitsch later also joined the cast.[7] The film was produced under the working title Granite Mountain. Principal photography on the film began in New Mexico on June 13, 2016. Filming took place at different locations in and around Santa Fe and Los Alamos.[8][9][10]

Joseph Trapanese composed the film's score. Dierks Bentley released a single called "Hold The Light", featuring S. Carey. The single and the music video was released on October 6, 2017.[11]


Only the Brave, originally titled Granite Mountain, was released on October 20, 2017, by Sony Pictures Releasing under its Columbia Pictures label. Before that the film was set a release date for September 22, 2017, but a disagreement between Lionsgate and production company Black Label Media saw the U.S. distribution rights change to Columbia Pictures.[12] Summit Entertainment will retain international rights in select countries for the film.[13] The trailer came out on July 19, and the film was retitled Only the Brave.[14] The film was released digitally on January 23, 2018, and on DVD and Blu-ray on February 6, 2018. As of December 2018, it had made $7.2 million in home video sales.[15]


The real hotshots' human pyramid photo, recreated in the film.

Some scenes in the film are added in for dramatic effect. For instance, Brendan McDonough was never bitten by a rattlesnake - which inadvertently caused him to be placed on lookout duty during the Yarnell Hill fire. In reality, McDonough went to a funeral and came down with the flu after saving the juniper tree. The film also depicts the families of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots learning about their deaths from Brendan inside a middle school gymnasium. The actual families learned from their own relatives or social media posts.[16]


Box office[edit]

Only the Brave grossed $18.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $7.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $25.8 million, against a production budget of $38 million.[3]

In the United States and Canada, Only the Brave was released alongside Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, The Snowman and Geostorm, and was expected to gross around $7 million from 2,575 theaters in its opening weekend.[17] It made $305,000 from Thursday night previews and $2.1 million on its first day. It ended up debuting to $6 million, finishing 5th at the box office.[18] In its second week the film dropped 42.5% to $3.4 million, finishing 7th.[19]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 160 reviews, with an average rating of 7.09/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Only the Brave's impressive veteran cast and affecting fact-based story add up to a no-frills drama that's just as stolidly powerful as the real-life heroes it honors."[20] On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Bilge Ebiri of Village Voice wrote, "Only the Brave is a visually splendid, spellbinding, and surreal movie that also happens to be an emotionally shattering, over-the-top ugly-cry for the ages."[22] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "an engaging account of a tragic real-life story."[23]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying: "The blending of practical effects and CGI is impressive, and we come to understand the risks these men are taking, but some of the techniques and approaches they take remain a mystery, up to and through the climactic fire. Not that we need a manual to understand these men were working-class, everyday heroes."[24] Scott Menzel of We Live Entertainment also praised the film, saying, "Only the Brave is without question the best firefighter film since Backdraft and one that pays tribute to the brave men that sacrificed their own lives to protect thousands of others."[25]

Richard Brody noted in The New Yorker that "Only the Brave ties the characters’ private lives to their work lives in a plethora of details, but it never looks beyond the work life into life at large, or even into the life that surrounds them in their own home town." Brody described the film as a missed opportunity to depict those who battled local politicians to secure benefits for survivors of the Yarnell Hill Fire and the widows of the deceased Hotshots.[26] The review quoted Fernanda Santos in The New York Times who wrote that "Juliann Ashcraft decided to leave Prescott altogether to spare her four children the discomfort of whispers and glares" — a reference to the harassment of women who challenged the decision to treat victims differently based on their employment status.[27]


List of awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Visual Effects Society Awards February 13, 2018 Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature Eric Barba, Dione Wood, Matthew Lane, Georg Kaltenbrunner, Michael Meinardus Nominated [28]
Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature Georg Kaltenbrunner, Thomas Bevan, Philipp Zaufel, Himanshu Joshi for "Fire and Smoke" Nominated


  1. ^ a b Flynn, Sean (September 27, 2013). "No Exit: The GQ Story That Inspired Only the Brave". GQ. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Film releases". Variety Insight. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Only the Brave (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  4. ^ "Only The Brave (2017)". British Board of Film Classification.
  5. ^ Giles, Jeff (October 19, 2017). "Only the Brave Is a Powerful Tribute". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  6. ^ Kroll, Justin (March 1, 2016). "Josh Brolin and Miles Teller to Star in Firefighter Action Movie 'No Exit' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin (May 20, 2016). "Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch Join Josh Brolin-Miles Teller Firefighter Film (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
  8. ^ Higdon, Marissa (June 10, 2016). ""Granite Mountain" starring Josh Brolin tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots – Albuquerque Business First". Albuquerque Business First. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Goodykoontz, Bill (June 9, 2016). "'Granite Mountain,' movie version of fallen Yarnell firefighters' story, to begin production". AZCentral. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  10. ^ ""Granite Mountain" to Film in New Mexico". June 10, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  11. ^ "Dierks Bentley ft. S. Carey Hold The Light (From "Only The Brave" Soundtrack) (Official Video)". Vevo.
  12. ^ Pedersen, Erik (June 7, 2016). "Lionsgate Dates 'Granite Mountain', 'Wonder' & 'How To Be A Latin Lover' For 2017". Deadline. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  13. ^ McNary, Dave (April 24, 2017). "'Sicario' Sequel, 'Granite Mountain' Move From Lionsgate to Sony". Variety. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  14. ^ Goldberg, Matt (July 19, 2017). "'Only the Brave': First Trailer Has Josh Brolin Leading an Elite Team of Firefighters". Collider. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  15. ^ "Only the Brave (2017)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  16. ^ McKinnon, Shaun. "How accurate is 'Only the Brave'? Here's what the movie gets right and wrong". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved January 10, 2024.
  17. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (October 18, 2017). "Boo 2!' To Shut Down Expensive 'Geostorm' In Crowded Weekend – Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 18, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Anthony D'Alessandro (October 22, 2017). "'Boo 2! A Madea Halloween' Reaps $21M+ During October Dumping Ground At The B.O." Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  19. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (October 29, 2017). "Horror Has Few Scares At B.O. As 'Jigsaw' Dulls To $16M+, 'Suburbicon' Condemned With D- CinemaScore". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  20. ^ "Only the Brave (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Only the Brave Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
  22. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (October 11, 2017). ""Only the Brave" Is One Big, Manly, Beautiful Ugly-Cry". Village Voice. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  23. ^ McCarthy, Todd (October 11, 2017). "'Only the Brave': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  24. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 18, 2017). "'Only the Brave' lays out the humanity of its firefighting heroes". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  25. ^ "'Only The Brave' Review: Bravery Done Right". We Live Entertainment. October 11, 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  26. ^ Brody, Richard (October 23, 2017). "The Story That 'Only the Brave' Leaves Out". The New Yorker.
  27. ^ Santos, Fernanda (June 26, 2014). "Money Splits a City Still Mourning Its Firefighters". The New York Times.
  28. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (January 16, 2018). "Visual Effects Society Awards: 'Apes,' 'Blade Runner 2049' Lead Feature Nominees". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 16, 2018.

External links[edit]