SYNOPSIS: Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the harrowing true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy's most celebrated wingmen.
Perhaps Devotion came out at the wrong time especially in the same year where another aviation movie called Top Gun: Maverick made such a huge killing at the box office. This is so true when you think of the famous Chinese idiom, “One Mountain cannot contain two tigers”.
While Devotion is indeed a movie about aviation as well, it’s a totally different beast from the Tom Cruise one. In fact, it’s a biography about Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the first Black American aviator to graduate from flight school and fought together with his wingman, Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) in the 1950 Korean war.
Instead of doing a full-blown biography on Brown, the story oddly focused strictly on the brief time he has with his family and team mates before he set off on the mission to support the South Koreans. We see Brown as he struggles with racism, self-doubt and most importantly his loving relationship with his wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson) and young daughter.
Brown is very much a loner, one that rather talks to the mirror than opens up to his fellow wingman, Tom. Yet to the surprise of his fellow seamen, he has unseen tricks up his sleeve as his surprise knowledge of French helped get them up close with Elizabeth Taylor in Cannes. Sadly, we didn’t get to see more of Brown nor his friendship with Tom Hudner. Whether it’s the intended purpose of the writers or director J.D. Dillard, Devotion never comes across as a proper tribute to the real-life hero.
Armed with handsome production values, Devotion manages to juggle some compelling aerial dog fights and camaraderie in the finale. The war sequences are exhilarating despite being PG13. While not on the level of Maverick, there’s still a tremendous amount of believable technicalities and choreography from aerial stunt coordinator Kevin LaRosa, the same man behind the Cruise’s hit.
Despite the unfocused screenplay, Jonathan Majors delivers another layered, astounding performance once again sealing his position as Hollywood’s next go to man. One of Maverick’s alumni, Glen Powell plays a character that is completely different from “Hangman”, a genuine, humane person who treats one as equal in an era where colours matter.
Aside from some missteps along the way, Devotion manages to be an highly enjoyable, old-school war epic that celebrates the heroic antics, friendship of those brave men that helped changed the world we live in today.
Review by Linus Tee