What follows thus turns into a kind of classic basic-training yarn, played out against the backdrop of various fires that the group has to battle — first to prove its worth, later as a badge of that hard-won right. As directed by Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”), those scenes are impressively harrowing, but have a certain repetitive quality — at least for anyone who’s seen “Backdraft” — until the film reaches its final acts.
The performances are almost uniformly strong, if somewhat curtailed by the familiarity of the character notes, from Brolin’s tough-love routine to Teller’s attempts to weather the rigors of the job and prove himself to his skeptical mates. By that measure, Kitsch is generally the most fun as the group’s incorrigible prankster and ladies’ man, whose relationship with Brendan becomes oddly endearing.
As noted, the distracting aspect of all this is the outbreak of terrible wildfires, which brings additional urgency to this story that made headlines in 2013. Otherwise, “Only the Brave” works as a personal portrait of those trained to rush toward danger, without quite reaching the level that would warrant an unqualified endorsement to rush out to see it.
“Only the Brave” premieres Oct. 20 in the U.S. It’s rated PG-13.