Kosinski and the writers studiously lay out the necessary parts and tools for this affecting story in the same way that Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) packs his knapsack with gear. Training montages, pranks and close calls demonstrate the way these men use their tools in the wilderness — swiftly cutting “lines” in the ground, cutting down trees, and using flame against flame. We understand the danger when we see their last resorts, protective foil shelters, unfurled in drills and pranks, and hopefully, never in the field.
Brolin, bearded and soot-streaked, has never been better, in a role that seems written for him. His Marsh is tough, gritty and fair, but his brand of masculinity, which his men imitate, draws its strength from vulnerability and fellowship. “Only the Brave” celebrates the jocular, physical friendship of men, as mentors, brothers, enemies, and co-workers.