Taking place during the first year of the Korean War, Devotion (based on the bestselling novel of the same name) chronicles the real-life story of the US Navy’s first Black aviator Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and his fellow fighter pilot Tom Hudner (Glen Powell). Having known the pair’s inspirational story since childhood, director J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) is assuredly and appropriately set on making Brown’s and Hudner’s names more widely known.
The film also stars Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, and Joe Jonas. And as Majors is set to star in arguably two of the upcoming year’s most highly anticipated films (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Creed III), he stands out amongst the cast, hopefully securing his place as Hollywood’s next great lead. Alongside Powell, who’s fresh off the success of this year’s other Navy pilot movie (fan favorite Top Gun: Maverick), the duo flaunt incredible chemistry in bringing the genuine friendship and brotherhood of Brown and Hudner to the big screen.
We’re introduced to Jesse a couple years after he’s already completed basic flight training, and Majors immediately gets you interested in what makes him tick. He presents himself as deeply focused, hardworking, and motivated. The way he initially interacts with Hudner, you get the sense that he is explicitly no-nonsense, nor is he generally concerned with companionship. Later, it becomes quite evident that the hardships he faced in getting to his position (i.e. blatant racism), which naturally no one else in his unit had to endure, are the reason why.
Not your average period drama.
Devotion reels you in with its gripping storytelling, especially in how it showcases genuine acts of heroism. But what truly sets it apart from the average war epic is the love story within. There are several moments with Jesse and his wife Daisy (Jackson) that make you forget we’re living in an age of Tinder. The struggle, fear, and dejected state Jesse seems to be in throughout his life on a ship are, for the most part, erased when he’s at home.
With historical biopics, there’s an unspoken anticipation of catastrophe that looms over the story, but Dillard’s choice to highlight a perspective for Daisy provides a more tender approach for the flight of emotions set to experience. Jackson’s performance is profoundly moving, as a result.
The film’s cinematography is also top notch, and fans of Mank and Mindhunter will certainly take notice of Erik Messerschmidt’s keen work, here, even apart from frequent collaborator David Fincher. Close-up shots provide sincere intensity, the aerial combat scenes are both heart-stopping and impressive, and the dark contrasts give the film a somber, yet powerful feeling.
You might get into the cockpit this film expecting camaraderie, bravery, sacrifice, and all the things that usually come with this kind of war drama. And while each of these components are certainly there, Devotion still has time to demonstrate authentic romance, tackle injustice, and even show off a bit of crowdpleasing humor. Top Gun: Maverick has its cinematic wingman, as it turns out.
Devotion is in theaters November 23. Watch the trailer here.
Featured Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
DEVOTION - 8/10