Only the Brave Blu-ray Review
Not brave enough for 4K?
Joseph Kosinski, director of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, tries something a little more grounded with Only the Brave, a character-driven true tale of firefighting bravery.After a couple of tremendous audiovisual experiences, Kosinski shifts his focus to a based on a true story tale of trainee firefighters who rise to frontline glory battling wildfires in Arizona. With a strong, well-paced narrative more concerned with characters than action, the director expands his skillset and lets his cast shine in the well-developed roles even if, ultimately, the biographical nature of the story prevents him from fully delivering the visceral component he's previously been known for. Only the Brave - a painfully generic title preferable to the more apt Hotshots - follows Josh Brolin's veteran firefighter, who seeks help from Jeff Bridges' fire chief to get his team the rank of 'Hotshots' so that they can battle the fires on the front line. Amidst the experienced teammembers we have a cocky Taylor Kitsch and a stalwart James Badge Dale standing out, although the equilibrium is shaken by the introduction of Miles Teller's drug addict deadbeat, desperate to prove himself a worthy father of the child he never expected to have.Only the Brave will likely defy any Backdraft expectations, even if Brolin's lead feels modeled on Kurt Russell's character, right down to the strange preternatural bond with fire. It also, albeit more organically, similarly charts the formulaic rise of a newcomer within the ranks of a more experienced crew. Ultimately, though, Kosinski's gambit on spending more time developing characters pays off, giving these people some real depth and dimension, which leaves their exploits, however predictable, feeling that much more natural. Miles Teller certainly shines with an excellent character arc, but this is easily Josh Brolin's baby as the backbone of the group. Ultimately Kosinski should have taken some liberties with his subject matter, and given his characters (and thus the audience) something to really rise up against, but he holds back, leaving this a very earnest tribute to these real-life heroes, but one which oddly, by following the true path too closely, doesn't always give them the legendary status that they arguably deserve.
Picture QualityOnly the Brave comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, who deliver up an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.40:1.
Director Joseph Kosinski's Tom Cruise-helmed sci-fi actioner, Oblivion made for something of an unexpected Ultra HD Blu-ray controversy, when it really should have been a slam-dunk, but his earlier Tron: Legacy would undoubtedly be well-received for all its neon tones and potential to shine with an HDR boost. This latest outing is admittedly a significant change in pace, but it still boasts the director's eye for impressive visuals - albeit naturally derived here with some stunning vistas. Indeed, it's quite a surprise that the film has not received a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, given that it had a 4K digital intermediate. Not in the UK, or even in the US, leaving this excellent Blu-ray presentation marred only by the knowledge that it may have looked even better had the studio supported a full Ultra HD Blu-ray package.
We really should have had the chance to experience the film in Ultra HD
Detail is excellent throughout, taking in the finer nuances of the weathered visages of the ensemble cast, as they get down and dirty fighting an impossible enemy. The broader vistas look absolutely stunning, with some of the sweeping helicopter and plane water-drops giving an epic scale to the piece, whilst visual highlights more in-line with what you'd expect from the director come in fits and starts - mostly through the nightmarish fire bear fantasy (which you could only imagine would have looked even more jaw-dropping with the benefit of HDR). Black levels are strong and deep, allowing for a rich backbone to the proceedings, and it is an easily demo, near-reference presentation that is, as stated, only marred by the fact that we really should have had the chance to experience the film in full Ultra HD glory.
Sound QualityIt's also rather disappointing that, despite having a Dolby Atmos soundtrack in the cinema, Only the Brave doesn't secure the same immersive audio track on its Blu-ray release. Nonetheless, the existing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a powerful offering, delivering precise and engulfing atmospherics that take you right into the heart of the inferno.
An easy demo 5.1 soundtrack.
Dialogue gets keen prioritisation across the frontal array, delivered with clarity and coherence throughout, and affording the dominant character-building strands across the piece plenty of room to breathe. Effects are impressive on both a small scale, lapping up minor ambient tweaks in the bustling training office, the ranch, or the heaving bars, whilst the trips into the seemingly limitless landscapes give an ominous backdrop of simmering heat; the intensity heightened with every step closer into the brush, spilling over into overwhelming inferno when the blaze hits. Surrounds are used impressively - never more so than in the helicopters and planes panning across the array - and there's some noticeable LFE weight underpinning the whole affair. Overall the soundtrack is easily demo material.
ExtrasOnly the Brave impresses on the extras front with a strong selection of additional features headlined by a decent Audio Commentary from director Joseph Kosinski and lead actor John Brolin which takes the time to not only look at the technical background of the production but also dip into the characters and their real-life counterparts.
A strong selection of features
A trio of 8-minute Featurettes - Honoring The Heroes: The True Stories; Boot Camp: Becoming a Hotshot; and Behind the Brotherhood: The Characters, look at the original ideas behind the movie, the training for the roles, and the real-life individuals who needed to be faithfully brought to life. There are also a couple of short minute-long Deleted Scenes. The disc is rounded out by a Music Video, a brief making-of for the Music Video and some Trailers.
Blu-ray VerdictKosinski lets his cast shine even if the biographical nature of the story prevents him from delivering the visceral component he's previously been known for
Only the Brave marks a step in a different direction for director Joseph Kosinski, who does a commendable job at delivering character-driven drama in this true-life tale. It may not be a perfect attempt, but it's a worthy effort. The Blu-ray release provides excellent video and audio, and a strong selection of extra features, marred slightly only by the fact that the thought of what this could have looked like on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Still, it's a great package for fans of the film.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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