Devotion is directed by J. D. Dillard and written by Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart. Jonathan Majors plays Brown, and Glen Powell plays Hudner, with Christina Jackson, Joe Jonas, Nick Hargrove, Spencer Neville, and Thomas Sadoski in supporting roles.
Three movies from the year 2022 that nose-dive and army crawl their way through various battles and the war games that go along with them have been released for viewers who appreciate watching movies about high-flying pilots and the misery of war.
With Devotion, you get a horrific biopic that is equal parts sky-bound epic and a somber reminder of the true costs of war. Top Gun: Maverick was an awe-inspiring legacy sequel, while All Quiet on the Western Front was a gut-wrenching war nightmare.
Although the title of the film, Devotion, which is based on the true story of Naval Aviator Jesse Brown, may not instantly make sense, as the narrative progressively unfolds, we begin to understand the layers of various types of devotion.
In addition to being devoted to his wife Daisy (Christina Jackson) and their daughter Pam, Jesse (Jonathan Majors) is also devoted to his work in the Navy. These are both quite typical expressions of devotion. The odd companionship and camaraderie he develops with his wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), though, and how that connection has carried his memories into the current decade, are what the
Devotion avoids delving too deeply into the politics of the Korean War, instead relying on the knowledge of the audience to grasp the general themes it explores on the Cold War, the Soviet Union, and the conflict between North and South Korea. Given that the Korean War is often regarded as the “Forgotten War” while having a significant impact on modern warfare, this both helps and hinders it to some extent.
J. D. Dillard addresses Jesse and Tom’s story with the utmost care, but at the same time, he resists the need to embellish the straightforward narrative that Adam Makos’ identically titled book presented. Jesse was praised for breaking barriers, featured by The Associated Press, and captured on camera for Life magazine. He was the first Black man to finish the U.S. Navy’s basic flight training programme.
But he also had to deal with bigotry from his peers, his neighbors, and the other soldiers they were sent to fight with. Tom isn’t hailed as a hero just for being a good friend to Jesse, there is no magical happily ever after, and Dillard avoids illustrating how opinions can be changed by heroic bravery. In a lengthy list of biopics that denigrate their subjects, it’s an unusual and appreciated choice.
Devotion will probably draw comparisons to Maverick, which aren’t altogether unreasonable given that Powell is wearing aviators again for the second time this year and the plot has a lot of the same beats. But neither actual conflict nor any of its simulations deviate frequently from the planned course. Drawing a serious comparison between the two would be detrimental to what Devotion is trying to represent, except for a few beats that are instantly recognizable. Instead of relying on spectacle or awe, Dillard depends on the emotional rollercoaster that Majors offers to the character, together with Powell’s sincere compassion.
The unimpressive cinematography that contrasts with the scenery in the movie is the only thing that actually makes Devotion fall short of perfection. Cannes is beautiful, with its rows of pastel-colored buildings and vivid blue skies, but its other settings feel washed out and tailor-made for technicolor. While it’s likely that director Erik Messerschmidt (Mank) intended for this to be an homage to the 1950s, the unneeded darkness that sequences are covered in detracts from the intensity of the emotion on display.
Despite having an impressive cast that includes Daren Kagasoff, Nick Hargrove, Joseph Cross, Spencer Neville, and Joe Jonas (to name a few), Devotion neglects some of the more crucial connecting tissue in its haste to present a neat 139-minute plot. Even if spectators are in tears at the movie’s melancholy conclusion, this leaves them wanting greater emotional resonance, even though it doesn’t really harm the plot.
The majority of that is the responsibility of the movie’s screenwriters, Jake Crane and Jonathan A. Stewart, who takes a 1,000-foot perspective on the plot. In the end, it succeeds in moving the viewer from point A to point B to point C, but it left me longing for more of Cannes’ charm and joy, which are cruelly cut short by the reality of war.
Without Majors and Powell at the heart of the emotional rollercoaster, Devotion wouldn’t be half the film that it is. They are a dynamic duo that effortlessly delivers believable camaraderie and a sort of brotherhood that would inspire someone to make it their life’s mission to bring the other home. They deliver a performance befitting of their reputation while capturing the bond between Jesse and Tom that outlasted their deaths.
The strong lineup of war movies this year includes Devotion, which while not trying to redefine the genre, does carve out its own niche. It’s a good, straightforward story that doesn’t sugarcoat the 1950s or the realities of war. In the climactic scene, it finds its wings and soars to a position of true authority.
The movie Devotion will be released on November 23.