Billy Cook (Narrator), Captain Thomas Wall (Archival), Ian Wall, Joel Wall, Meghan Huffman
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"Brave Are the Fallen" Available on Amazon Prime
Jacob Whitley's 52-minute feature doc Brave are the Fallen is a moving, heartfelt tribute to Captain Thomas Wall, an Orange County firefighter killed on October 5, 1998 while fighting the Taylor Fire in Riverside, California. Wall, who had been battling the fire alongside other firefighters for 10 hours, was protecting exposed dwellings when he told other firefighters that he didn't feel well and collapsed. Captain Wall died of a heart attack while in the line of duty. Captain Wall has been honored on the National Fallen Fighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Originally filming Wall's story as a student doc short while he was at Cal State Fullerton, Whitley has expanded Brave are the Fallen into a nearly hour-long feature doc alongside Zapruder Pictures and the film is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime.
Whitley uses a weaving together of archival footage of Captain Wall along with interviews with his surviving wife, three children, and those who worked alongside him over the years. The interviews with the children, all adults now of course, are particularly emotionally resonant and hint at the grief that still seems to linger over the loss of a father while they were still aged pre-teen to teen.
Brave Are the Fallen is at its best and strongest when it focuses on Wall's family, their testimonies heartfelt and filled with reminders of the risks taken by firefighters daily to protect human lives, animal lives, our property, and our natural resources.
The film falls a bit short when it intersperses what feels like more generic, canned statements about firefighters in general that feel more like a PSA than an integral part of the story. The film's narration by Billy Cook, as well, falls short of the emotional resonance often present throughout much of the film.
However, there's simply no denying the impact of Wall's story. After obtaining his fire science degree, Wall began his lifelong dedication to firefighting at the age 21 and served faithfully over the years while advancing in roles and responsibilities. Remembered with a warm affection by friends and peers, Captain Thomas Wall's memory is well served by this engaging, memorable documentary that you can watch for yourself now on Amazon Prime.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic