The Low-Down: Like Operation Red Sea (红海行动), The Bravest (烈火英雄) is a patriotic tribute film to China’s bravest firefighters who sacrifice their lives to protect the common people. Featuring Operation Red Sea’s star Du Jiang and Escape Plan 2’s Huang Xiaoming as fire squad captains, The Bravest isn’t all about patriotism — its flashy but impressive fire spectacle will make the pyrotechnics in other blockbuster movies look like child’s play.
The Story: Bingang Special Forces Squad Captain Jiang Liwei (Huang Xiaoming) is forced to retire after one of his team members dies under his command during a rescue mission. Liwei’s lieutenant Ma Weiguo (Du Jiang) takes his place as captain. When the harbour oil pipeline explodes, every firefighter in the city including Liwei is called to arms. As the fire spread across the harbour to a gigantic oil tank and chemical containers, dozens of firemen sacrifice themselves to prevent an impending explosion that would have wiped out not just Bingang but its neighbouring cities as well.
The Good: No other Asian blockbuster balances visual and practical effects onscreen like The Bravest, marking yet another milestone in Chinese filmmaking. Director Chen Guo Hui and crew sure know how to keep the suspense boiling by constantly one-upping the pressure on the situation. The attention to details in deciding the fate of certain characters are handled with extreme care and consideration too — none of them is killed or spared in an unbelievable way.
The Not-So-Good: Like most high-profile Asian movies (one of them being Operation Red Sea), The Bravest’s out-of-place sub-characters and uninteresting subplots stick out like sore thumbs. They serve little purpose and the main narrative can be more flavourful with a tighter runtime and lesser distractions. Liwei’s wife (Tan Zhuo, Story Of Yanxi Palace 延禧攻略) and son’s characters could have been handled a lot better as well — they’re very much one-dimensional and don’t enrich much of Liwei’s character.
Knock-Out Sequences: Majority of the third act involving the heroes battling the raging inferno is a spectacle, and the rescue (and sacrificial) scenes are exhilarating.
Watch Out For: The series of explosions leading up to the harbour rescue mission. If you were to just watch those several minutes, you would think you’re watching a mega-budget Hollywood movie.
Recommended? Yes, for the fire show and spectacular effects. Forgive the forced subplots involving some side characters and watch out for the rescue sequences in the third act, that’s how you’ll enjoy The Bravest.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars