Longtime stage actor-director-scribe Lane Nishikawa has corralled a strong cast and worthy subject for his feature helming debut. But pedestrian execution makes “Only the Brave” feel like a throwback to B-grade 1950s military actioners, despite its portraying the real-life WWII heroics of all-volunteer regimental combat teams filled by Hawaiian Nisei and Japanese-American internment camp residents. Tale of true patriotism trumping societal prejudice is inherently inspirational enough to ensure educational broadcast and classroom shelf life. But turgid presentation won’t stir much commercial interest beyond filler cable slots.
Nishikawa is hampered by the struggle to evoke large-scale events on a tight budget, but also by hackneyed, too-modern dialogue, dull action staging, and a piecemeal structure that sabotages cumulative suspense and character involvement. He plays (monotonously) Sgt. Jimmy Takata, who leads one unit across occupied 1944 rural France. Fatigued and worse, they rest in an empty saloon before a suicide mission to rescue a division of trapped Americans. Charismatic thesps Jason Scott Lee and Mark Dacascos are given little to work with, while domestic-life flashbacks featuring Tamlyn Tomita and others are retro-corny. Packaging is mediocre; 35mm transfer pending, preem was projected in DigiBeta.