WHEN the going gets tough, the tough stick together in Joseph Kosinski’s flame-scorched drama, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who lost their lives as they battled a deadly 2013 wildfire in Arizona.

Inspired by a magazine article about this rough and ready, beer-chugging band of brothers, Only The Brave wears its patriotic heart on its stars and stripes-emblazoned sleeve but also contrives engaging human drive away from the inferno.

Admittedly, Kosinski’s film is over-long and would benefit from some brisk cuts to a sagging middle hour before the fateful wall of flames roars towards Yarnell, north-west of Phoenix.

However, screenwriters Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer are determined to forsake dramatic expediency to honour the memories of the fallen 19 firefighters. Impressive special effects bring the wildfires to life but it’s an ensemble cast of award-winners who effectively turn up the heat.

Superintendent Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) oversees the day-to-day training of municipal firefighters including his right-hand man Jesse Steed (James Badge Dale) and Christopher MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch).

With the support of Fire Chief Duane Steinbrink (Jeff Bridges), Eric intends to secure ‘hotshot’ certification for his hard-working crew, which would allow them to advance to the front line rather than always clearing the path for other teams.

This dream of promotion is compromised by the arrival of 21-year-old slacker Brendan McDonough (Teller), who has just become a father to a baby girl. Brendan is out of shape and lacks team spirit but Eric spies potential and welcomes the new boy into the ranks.

When lightning strikes ignite parched vegetation, the Hotshots answer the emergency call and Eric’s wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) waits patiently for news from the mountainside.

Only The Brave is a stirring account of events leading up to the crew’s final stand.

We root for the firefighters, even when we know the tragic outcome of their valour in advance, and the cast puts flesh on to the characters’ weary bones as locations go up in flames around them.

Brolin’s chiselled jaw cuts through the occasional gushing sentimentality while Teller savours a rollercoaster of emotions that ends in guilt and grief – and us blubbing.

RATING: 7/10