By CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE | Published October 23, 2017
NEW YORK (CNS)—The heartbreaking true story of an elite Arizona firefighting team comes to the big screen in “Only the Brave” (Columbia).
In 2013, the Granite Mountain Hotshots—as the group was known—risked their lives and raced into a raging inferno to save a neighboring town from destruction. Given more recent fire calamities, their striking example of heroism, brotherhood and self-sacrifice is both timely and inspiring.
Only the country’s top wildland firefighters earn the designation “hotshots.” These squads, the Navy SEALS of firefighting, are deployed across the country, wherever the need is most extreme.
In Prescott, Arizona, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) has dreamed for years of earning hotshot status for his 20-member crew. With Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale) as his right-hand man, Marsh has honed them into a well-oiled firefighting machine.
The diverse bunch includes Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch), a ladies’ man and prankster, and Clayton Whitted (Scott Haze), a youth minister who keeps his Bible handy. Most are young, newly married, and have children, which injects additional drama and poignancy into the saga. Marsh’s wife, Amanda (Jennifer Connelly), epitomizes the lonely existence of the spouses, constantly anxious for their husbands’ safety.
“It’s not easy sharing your man with a fire,” says Marvel Steinbrink (Andie MacDowell), wife of Duane (Jeff Bridges), the local fire chief.
During a recruitment drive, an unlikely candidate appears: Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller). He has led a dissolute life of drugs and crime and, after a one-night stand, is now a father.
This has turned out to be a major wake-up call. Before long, McDonough is running drills with Marsh’s crew, learning to clear brush, dig trenches, and create controlled burns, which contain a fire by taking away its source of fuel.
When all else fails, the men crawl inside makeshift shelters, large reflective bags which—they hope—let the fire pass safely over them. “It’s gonna feel like the end of the world,” Marsh warns. “As long as you can breathe, you can survive.”
In adapting a magazine article by Sean Flynn, director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) deftly juggles the intimate stories of the men’s personal lives with grand set pieces which evoke the sheer terror and destructive force of the flames they battle. Although the ending is well known, its impact is no less profound on screen. So the movie’s tagline, “It’s not what stands in front of you. It’s who stands beside you,” feels well earned.
The film contains scenes of extreme peril, mature themes, drug use, brief rear male nudity, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, several uses of profanity, pervasive crude language, some sexual banter and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“The Foreigner” (STX)
Jackie Chan takes a sharp turn from his typically genial screen personality to become the vengeful father of a London terrorist victim in this efficiently suspenseful adaptation of Stephen Leather’s pulp thriller “The Chinaman.” Director Martin Campbell and screenwriter David Marconi have produced an unembroidered drama about Irish Republican Army violence and bureaucratic treachery. After his daughter (Katie Leung) is murdered in a bombing, and his expectations of swift justice are frustrated by the machinations of a deputy prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) with substantial political ambitions, the grieving dad focuses all his energy on getting the attention of government officials any way he can. Though none of the protagonist’s bombs are intended to damage anything but property, and he also avoids using a gun, vigilantism is always a troubling theme for believing moviegoers. So it’s disturbing that Chan’s character is meant to be cheered in the manner of a cowboy hero as he searches for justice. Still, grown and well-grounded viewers will find this a taut journey, albeit one with a high body count. A vigilantism theme, gun and physical violence, fleeting gore, implied sexual activity, a few profanities, frequent rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” (Annapurna)
Fans of the superheroine Wonder Woman are advised to steer well clear of this sordid story about the comic’s creator, William Moulton Marston (1893-1947). A behavioral psychologist who believed in so-called free love, sadomasochism, and open marriage, Marston (Luke Evans) engages his wife (Rebecca Hall) and a comely student (Bella Heathcote) in a three-way relationship. The astonishing love triangle endures for years and multiple babies are born. When the truth is revealed and he loses his job, Marston turns to writing, and his trademark creation is born, filled with his warped views and devoid of traditional morality. Regrettably, writer-director Angela Robinson eagerly hoists the banner of relativism and paints a sympathetic picture of the trio and their outrageous behavior. A negative view of religion, strong sexual content with nudity, a benign view of aberrant behavior, pornography and birth control, sexual banter, frequent rough language and one profane oath. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
“Happy Death Day” (Universal)
A play on 1993’s time-loop fantasy “Groundhog Day,” this slasher movie, directed by Christopher Landon, is an unlikely mix of horror and humor with a message about self-improvement. A college student (Jessica Rothe) awakens on the morning of her birthday in the dorm room of a fellow student (Israel Broussard). At the end of her daily routine, which essentially means being obnoxious to everyone around her, she is stabbed to death. She instantly awakens back in the same dorm room, and will relive the same day, over and over. While each new time loop offers the chance for redemption, college-age viewers (and younger) may wrongly conclude that anything which makes you happy—even aberrant behavior—is a good thing. Moments of violence and terror, sexual banter, drug use, brief rear female nudity, a benign view of pornography, homosexual acts and masturbation, some rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“My Little Pony: The Movie” (Lionsgate)
The popular candy-colored Hasbro toy line gallops on to the big screen in this animated musical, directed by Jayson Thiessen. Twilight Sparkle (voice of Tara Strong) is one of the princesses who rule the mythical land of Equestria, where ponies and unicorns live in harmony. She joins forces with her best friends Applejack and Rainbow Dash (both voice of Ashleigh Bell), Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy (both voice of Andrea Libman), and Rarity (voice of Tabitha St. Germain), to defeat the wicked intentions of Tempest Shadow (voice of Emily Blunt) and the Storm King (voice of Liev Schreiber). Amid the relentless prancing and preening, smiles and squeals, and some toe-tapping tunes, these magical quadrupeds have an important message to convey to their young fans: Friendship is paramount. Mild cartoonish action, brief bathroom humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I, general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
“Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros.)
Misogyny hangs over this science-fiction epic, a continuation of the story begun with Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, as blithely as the thick yellow fog of the post-apocalyptic Los Angeles it portrays. A police officer (Ryan Gosling) has the job of rounding up stray rebellious replicants while also exploring the meaning of being human and interacting with technology. Director Denis Villeneuve, working from a script by Hampton Fancer and Michael Green, has made a two-and-a-half-hour film that, in its solemn eagerness to have its audience savor every special effect and linger over every underlined point about artificial life developing authentic human emotions, feels more like four hours. Female nudity, a discreet sexual encounter involving a holograph melding with a human prostitute, frequent rough language and some profanities. Catholic News Service classification, L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Motion Picture Association of America rating, R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.