Let’s get the big one out of the way. Thanks to the success of Top Gun: Maverick earlier this year, Devotion is being marketed like its Top Gun but set in the Korean War. That war, known colloquially as “The Forgotten War” is the backdrop of Devotion, but it never really goes too deep into the framing, politics, or impact of that conflict on the world. If you check out the trailer for Devotion, you get a sampling of around 90% of the action scenes in the movie. There’s still some thrilling stuff left for you to see in the actual movie, but this is more of a look into the relationship between two pilots and their lives.
Jonathan Majors might be the most in-demand actor in Hollywood at the moment and between his performance and Glen Powell’s (also doesn’t help that one of the best performances in Top Gun: Maverick is in this movie for the comparisons), there isn’t a badly acted scene throughout the film. Devotion comes from director J.D. Dillard and is written by Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart. Their script is based on the book Devotion: An Epic Story Of Heroism, Brotherhood, And Sacrifice by Adam Makos. The story here tells about pilots Jesse Brown (Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell). Brown is the first African-American man to complete Navy flight training in US history.
Their relationship is the crux of the film. Everything builds out from it. Thankfully this isn’t Green Book or another white savior story. While Jesse Brown faces innumerable obstacles on his way. Majors plays him with a passion and fury that’s incredibly refreshing. The camaraderie on display between Powell and Majors is palpable. One aspect of the film that’s almost as interesting as their relationship is the shift in the US Navy from the Bearcat to the Corsair fighter.
That shift brings problems for all the pilots. They can’t see out of the front of it, they have to rely more on their wingmen and other officers to land and fly. It’s a wonderful comparison to the problems the characters face in the air and on the ground. It might start off a bit slow with little to no combat, but the training sequences are enough to keep people invested until the film kicks into the Korean War sections.
Outside of Majors and Powell, it also features a nice cast of supporting characters in Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, Joe Jonas, Spencer Neville, Daren Kagasoff, Boone Platt, and Serinda Swan. Christina Jackson plays Daisy Brown, and particularly in the latter stages of Devotion, she’s got some really excellent scenes. Her chemistry with Majors is off the charts. The rest of the flight crew and pilots all do their jobs, but they really don’t get a lot to sink their teeth into. The majority of the action and drama surround Tom and Jesse.
As for the cons of Devotion, besides the marketing being a bit overplayed with the focus on action, the film bogs down in melodrama in the third act. Looking at the actual story told by Hudner about Jesse Brown, it matches up, but the whole thing feels soap operatic in the film. Those supporting characters besides Daisy end up feeling like game pieces that are moved around so we can see how the relationship between Tom and Jesse builds up. Finally, the entire section in Paris ends up feeling a bit strange with a historical cameo that comes out of nowhere.
It doesn’t take too much away, but Devotion might look like something that it’s not. If you’re going into this because it looks like a prequel to Top Gun, you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you want a historical drama with two excellent performances from the leads Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell, you’ll really get something out of Devotion.
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