– Review by Jonathan W. Hickman
Review Rating 7/10
Director: J.D. Dillard
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Joe Jonas, Thomas Sadoski, and Joseph Cross
Running Time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
In theatrical release
The Korean War that ran from 1950 through 1953 is often called The Forgotten War, and the new film “Devotion” focuses on a neglected heroic story during the early days of that conflict.
“Lovecraft Country’s” Jonathan Majors plays Jesse Brown, a Navy fighter pilot. While his talent in the cockpit is unquestioned, he is often held back because of the prejudices of the time. Brown is African American and a pilot, which was, at that time, rare.
As the sole person of color in his squadron, Brown hesitates to trust his fellow airmen. But when Tom Hudner (Glenn Powell) arrives, Brown’s isolationist behavior begins to thaw. Unlike Brown, Hudner isn’t married and has no children. And joining the military didn’t sit well with Hudner’s wealthy family, who’d rather he help run their grocery stores than fly fighter planes.
The movie follows Brown, Hudner, and other pilots as they learn to fly a more powerful fighter, the Corsair. This plane presents problems for the pilots, especially when they are taught to land the beefy Corsair on an aircraft carrier. And in one thrilling dogfight, they encounter a MIG-15. Despite the MIG’s speed and maneuverability advantages, there’s still no substitute for a good pilot.
With “Devotion,” Director J.D. Dillard (see 2016’s “Sleight”) delivers a handsome and emotionally satisfying war picture that manages to address racial injustice while also celebrating the American soldier. Majors is terrific as Brown, who fights his inner demons by never forgetting the outer ones.
In one revealing sequence that becomes the film’s haunting echo, Brown stares into a mirror and repeats a lifetime of insults he’s received. This mantra is a tragic and moving narrative device that helps us understand Brown’s motivations intimately.
“Devotion” should please aviation fans and the rest of us that happily embraced “Top Gun: Maverick.”