Some memories remain clear and never forgotten. One is of my father running through a jumble of cars to get to a fire. Sightseers had blocked the path, but the firetruck had gotten through. The other is from 9/11, firefighters running up steps into a building. Everything inside me knew they would never get out, and I was just as sure that they knew the same and still ran as fast they could.
I come from a family of firefighters; dad, uncles, cousins and a nephew. Dad volunteered when I was a child and later professionally with ordinance and flammables. When my family moved to So. California, he worked for Rocketdyne and Jet Propulsion Lab. Before he got those jobs, I asked him why he never accepted a fire chief position offered to him. He replied that he didn’t know enough about forest fires. I didn’t fully understand that reply until I’d been threatened by three and survived one. Fire doesn’t frighten me, but it should. Two movies I’ve recently seen have fire as a main component—two completely different genres.
Only the Brave is a movie that will stay with me forever. There aren’t many films about fires. Backdraft and Always are easy to remember, but most scenes in films with fires are unrealistic, even dangerous, giving viewers the idea that it’s okay to risk going into a building in flames.
(Two things to remember: there is NO AIR to breath. The fire is eating it, and it’s usually pitch black inside. Crawling along the floor, following a baseboard is the only chance of finding the way out. Scenes are lit bright red for movies, not the actual event.)
Only the Brave isn’t just about fighting forest fires, which is a visually spectacular component. It’s also about the people who do it to save others, how their families are impacted. Saving people is the primary goal, but also the forests. With climate change comes increased unpredictability and the problem of towns and cities that were once marginally safe now at high risk. This film isn’t only a cautionary tale, it’s wonderfully acted by a diverse cast. Some may think the portrayal of the firefighters a bit juvenile at times, but I’ve worked in high stress conditions in the ER and know that it’s one way to combat the stress. The laughter and silly-crazy stuff helps to compartmentalize the immense pressure of the work.
This is a film worth seeing, if for no other reason than to honor those who put their lives on the line. We honor our service people, but firefighters are sometimes neglected. If I had more than two thumbs, they’d all be pointed up for this movie.
On the other side of the genre spectrum is Thor: Ragnarok. OK, I did something throughout this flick that I never expected, laughed and laughed and laughed. Now, I knew it would be a hoot to watch Jeff Goldblum, but I didn’t expect the hilarious script and comedic timing of Chris Hemsworth. He does it with such ease, and comedy ain’t easy, folks. It’s the most difficult to perfect in an actor’s toolbox. Most don’t attempt it. (And look for cameo appearances.)
My usual gripes about the action film genre usually originate with graphics and music. No bellyaching this time. The graphics sparkle with splashes of color or majestic beauty. The charge of the Valkyrie is stunning, and the music lead-in clever—just a few Wagnerian notes to announce what’s coming. I liked this movie so much I’m going to see it again with a mythology buff. She’d already warned me that the movie didn’t follow the myths, but I don’t know how anyone can gripe about Cate Blanchett’s snarky Hela (aka Hel, Norse myth. Sort of). Some have panned Blanchett and this character, but I thought she was delicious. And Jeez, give it a break. This is a movie that’s supposed to be FUN, and finally, for the Marvel franchise, it is.
So, you’re asking how these two movies are alike? Forest fire devastation, the conflagration of Asgard, and life-and-death choices made with courage of conviction.
Shameless plug portion of the blog: my newest release—totally unlike the above genres except for a little violence here and there—Avenue to Heaven, written as Julia Donner.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)