Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell both earn their wings.
Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell both have a fascinating connection in this Korean War movie called “Devotion.” It opens with the reminder that it was a “Forgotten War,” which lasted for three years (1950-1953),” but according to a New York Times article titled “Korean War, a ‘Forgotten’ Conflict That Shaped the Modern World”: “It also helped set the tone for Soviet-American rivalry during the Cold War, profoundly shaping the world we live in today, historians said.”
As I always say: it’s the little things that help make the big things.
In the same season, I’ve seen two war movies about African-American men trying to prove their worth for America. “The Inspection” was inspired by how filmmaker Elegance Bratton suffered through homophobia during his training in the Marines. And now, “Devotion” focuses on how Jesse Brown (Majors) was the first African-American aviator to complete the US Navy’s basic flight training and the first African-American naval officer to be killed in the Korean War. But between them, the movie admires his friendship and comradeship with white aviator Thomas Hudner, Jr. (Powell), as this true story is based on the book “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice” by Adam Makos.
I was mixed about “The Inspection” for its powerful performances and short time length, but I choose “Devotion” over that for not exploiting these heroes, and allowing the right actors with the right ages and vulnerabilities to keep us rooting for them. And plus, it’s longer, which means we get to see more of these heroes and their challenges.
Before Jesse leaves, his wife Daisy (Christina Jackson from “The Night House”) asks Thomas to look after him, which he promises. She worries for her husband, especially since they both have a little girl.
And before they fly, their commanding officer Dick Cevoli (Thomas Sadoski) informs his aviators on what is yet to come in the war. And this guy isn’t the guy who judges Jesse for his skin; he judges him on his actions, which are tremendous. And he also has faith in Thomas, as well.
“Devotion” was directed by J.D. Dillard, who also made the equally entertaining “Sleight.” In that film, he was able to provide a remarkable team of special effects artists on a small budget of $250,000, and this one, he has a higher budget that shows us how these pilots are able to fly. Just like “Top Gun: Maverick,” we’re able to fly with them, and real planes are used for support. Obviously, green screens are used, but it almost looks so real.
Majors is stepping up his game from independent features, like “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” to more commercial films like “Da 5 Bloods” and now “Devotion,” and he also has the kind of depth and humanity that has us supporting him from start to finish. And he also has his sadness, when he faces discrimination in his life, and repeats the horrible lines he’s been told.
And Powell, who was also in “Top Gun: Maverick,” also gives a fine performance when he has his face and personality. If he’s able to soar in that film, he’s able to soar here, as well.
This movie isn’t as strong as “Top Gun: Maverick” in terms of its screenplay which could have been a bit more complex. But it is strong and entertaining in its direction and choice of actors, who aren’t here to make money, but to retell this true story in a certain kind of light. As with any war movie, it guarantees no happy ending, but it promises you courage and valor.