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Review The Bravest a.k.a. Lie huo ying xiong (2019): Hugely flawed disaster epic but worth watching nonetheless!

genre: action, drama






Backdraft is one of my most favourite films of all time. So when I come along another film that is pretty similar of course I will compare to that masterpiece. Yes, you read it correctly Backdraft is a masterpiece. Can the same be said about The Bravest?

Unfortunately not. There are some moments that do come close but there are too many flaws that bog down the overall film experience. First of all the narrative. It's clear they are trying to enhance the heroism of the firefighters. And that is fine by me. But it's done so poorly I had trouble getting invested. One of the main characters, Jiang Liwei, for example right after he has done something heroic gets blamed for the death of a rookie under his supervision. Now, sure one could argue that he shouldn't have let this rookie out of his sight. Still, even if he would be near and watching this rookie closely, there is nothing he could have done to prevent the event. Of course it's horrible and tragic. But unless this guy had pushed him into the building or had forced the rookie who reluctant. Then maybe I would have agreed with the haters. However this never happens. The only thing you could fault him for is that he let the rookie do clean up after allegedly the fire had been put out completely. Even his own family didn't have his back. There are other dynamics and forced drama that just lack coherence and depth. The best way to overcome this huge flaw is to accept the narrative and go with it. 

I understand that an oil refinery catching fire is a huge disaster. The film does point how dangerous it can be. Perhaps a bit too much since some of the impact seems too fantastical and over the top. Pretty, but kind of takes away from the realism. The film also doesn't point out the safety and security measures. I mean I am aware that certain corporate entities skip these in order to safe money. But in this case wouldn't it be in their interest to have the refinery in tact? I am sure they must have several precautions and measures in place that prevent the worst from happening. I think if they had pointed these out but despite those events still happened would have increased the tension considerably.

That being said I still was able to find enjoyment due to the sheer spectacle and short but heart wrenching dramatic moments. Is the film nationalistic and the highest order of propaganda? No doubt. Is it of a level that it completely gets into the way of the enjoyment? Well, maybe with the shame and disappointment concerning Jiang Liwei. But isn't that actually a true depiction of how China works? In any case it's of the same level of Hollywood propaganda and if we are able to enjoy those I don't see why we can't enjoy Chinese films who do the exact same. It's an element you have to take with a grain of salt. 

Viewed as a disaster epic this is as good as it gets. A lot of spectacular action and spectacle with some over the top melodrama to intensify that spectacle. Certainly worth watching at least once.








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