RATING: PG-13, 134 minutes

In 1985, I attended the first public screening of Sydney Pollack’s OUT OF AFRICA. The Meryl Streep and Robert Redford epic drama went on to win seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. In the public discussion with Mr. Pollack immediately following the screening, a question was asked about the film’s slow pacing. I have never forgotten Mr. Pollack’s response: “Sometimes you create a film whose story develops slowly. It mirrors and almost unfolds — like reading a novel.” I also have not forgotten that when I raised my hand and was called upon, I made a statement: “Mr. Pollack, we have just seen the Best Picture of the Year!”

I am not suggesting that ONLY THE BRAVE is the Best Picture of the Year”. Far from it. But it is a fine film on so many different levels. Joseph Kosinski continues to grow with each film he directs. The screenwriters are Ken Nolan (BLACK HAWK DOWN) and Eric Warren Singer (AMERICAN HUSTLE). Claudio Miranda is the director of photography. Louise Mingenbach is the costume designer. Billy Fox is the editor and Joseph Trapanese is responsible for the pulsating musical score.

ONLY THE BRAVE has a very strong cast including several exceptional and powerful performances. I love Josh Brolin and he has never been better. Miles Teller with his range of emotions may just be nominated as a Best Supporting Actor. Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale, and Jeff Bridges round out the primary cast. If this film is anything, it is an actor’s showcase (including the names that I didn’t mention).

The bottom line for me is the accidental timing of the release of this film immediately after the horrendous disaster up in northern California. Ordinary people who train and push themselves to do extraordinary things. They define the Rotarian mantra of “Service Before Self”. They are modern day heroes. And like all of us, we are fallible. We make critical mistakes. And sometimes your luck runs out. The Sony/Columbia release ONLY THE BRAVE — just for its humanity is deserving of an “A” score.


For the viewers, the loss of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013 will never be forgotten in Prescott, Yarnell and the surrounding communities of northern Arizona. The days following the tragedy were filled with expressions of sorrow, grief and love for the families and friends touched by their loss. There were community gatherings each evening that week. The city came together collectively as one…wanting to express their outpouring of love and gratitude for the Hotshots and their families. The following weekend thousands lined Montezuma Street downtown as the police and fire motorcade brought the bodies of the 19 home from Phoenix…some standing and saluting…others kneeling in prayer…all in silence.

Throughout Prescott today you see memorials, wall paintings, flags of remembrance, even stickers on cars and trucks calling all to remember and never to forget.

And now with the State Park Memorial open in Yarnell and the release of the movie “Only the Brave”….the state and the nation can pause to remember and never forget the sacrifice of 19 young men and also to appreciate and to be grateful for those who are following in their footsteps.


For the viewers, on June 30, 2013, my wife Dinah and I were at a Christian musical festival in Prescott Valley, which is about 30 miles north and east of Yarnell. We could see smoke from two fires burning in the area, but thought little of it at the time, as wildfires in Arizona are common that time of the year. One of the blazes was the Yarnell Hill Fire, which had started from a lightning strike two days earlier.

There was a deafening crack as a mountain thunderstorm rolled in and we remarked with satisfaction that this should help the firefighters and the 100 degree heat. The storm, however, was more wind than rain, and we had no way of knowing those winds would be deadly.

Phoenix-based artist Mia Koehne was on the main arena stage, singing the song, “I CHOOSE TO PRAISE YOU” by Mark Snyder. This really touched us as it spoke about praising God during the darkest of time. Part of the refrain was, “I choose to praise You, When mighty waters’ swirling all around me”.

During the next set, the festival promoter interrupted the music to announce the winds had blown the Yarnell Hill Fire out of control, growing it from 300 acres to more than 2,000 acres. Then he announced the unbelievable news, that 19 local firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been killed. The stunned crowd bowed their heads and prayed.

As details of the tragedy unfolded in the days that followed and we learned the actual time of the firefighters’ deaths, my wife realized we lost those brave men about the time Mia was singing that song.

“You know,” wrote composer Mark Snyder on a Facebook post — “this song was originally written right after the San Diego area wildfires about three years back or so. And the original lyric was “When there’s fire in the wind,” because it seemed just about the most daunting situation one could face. Then I changed it to something a little more hopeful.”

So at about the time of the firefighters’ deaths, the 3,000 people in the arena were worshiping and singing about being able to praise God, even while trying to find shelter from “fire in the wind.”


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