Devotion lovingly tells the story of Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in the Navy, and his wingman Tom Hudner.
Sony Pictures honors the Navy’s first Black aviator, Jesse Brown, with their based on true events movie Devotion. Brown, played by Jonathan Majors, became a pilot not long after World War II and saw combat in the United States of America’s Forgotten War with Korea. Though the movie does take place during war, the majority of the story is about Brown’s journey as the first Black Aviator, and his relationship with his wingmen, in particular, Tom Hudner (Glen Powell). Though from different walks of life, the two men grew to understand each other and become good friends.
Devotion Isn’t Quite As Expected
Whenever it is the first minority to do anything, there is usually a lot of focus on the hardships they faced. While it is often hard to watch, it is an important aspect and element of the journey these pioneers endure. If anything, it is likely underplayed to be palatable by audiences. Devotion is not heavy in that aspect, which is a nice change of pace. To be honest, other than knowing he was the first Black aviator, I know nothing of Brown’s story. While making no efforts to shy away and capture the racism he faced, the film focuses much more on him overcoming it and Hudner’s and his other wingmen’s bond.
Devotion does a spectacular job of highlighting the systematic oppression of racism, rather than the overt attacks. It also smartly shows how good intentions and actions of allies can fall flat despite the best of efforts and intent. These moments really allow the bond between Brown and Hudner to go far beyond the workplace, and give them a true understanding of each other.
While brotherhood, especially that of brothers in arms, is no new theme, Devotion delivers in a unique way. The usual overcoming of obstacles and problems together is there, as well as loss. But what this film does that I think adds a new dimension, and elevates the bonds a bit, is it allows the men to be vulnerable. This is largely guided by Richard Cevoli, played by Thomas Sadoski. Sadoski is the war-torn division leader of Brown and Hudner’s squadron. While he is hard on them, he is also brutally honest and direct about emotions. He shares his vulnerabilities and pushes his squad to face theirs. Which ultimately makes them better and strengthens their bond.
It is a truly refreshing depiction of men. That highlights their value as people outside of their function of duty. While on the surface it is quite literally the classic depiction of masculinity and the American Dream, it shows a tenderness that is usually encouraged to be killed to achieve that masculinity. It feels a bit out of place given the era, but I personally don’t know anything about the squad or have read the book. If it was true, Cevoli was truly a man ahead of his time.
Devotion feels like a push for awards season. Glen Powell serves as an Executive Producer on the film on top of being one of the leads. He plays the part spectacularly and serves as a great wingman to Majors, not only in the film’s story but as a scene partner throughout the film. The interaction between the two is the heart of the movie and watching them connect and learn about each other is a powerful experience. As great as Powell’s performance is however, I do not see his role being substantial enough to garner a lot of statues.
Majors as Brown on the other hand is guaranteed to be mentioned quite a bit in rewards consideration. There is a single-take shot early on that goes over Brown’s ritual of repeating every racist thing he has been told. It is an immensely powerful scene that hurts to watch. It isn’t that long, but the pain, rage, and emotion of the scene slow and stretch the moment. It’s a bad memory that you can’t escape and resonates throughout the film. However, not long after Majors shoots a truly joyous and loving scene of Brown and his family that is the exact opposite. Only to have that cut short by the cops showing up at his door.
Majors’ range and ability to whiplash back and forth from emotional extremes are awe-inspiring.
Devotion Flies in Clear Skies, But Doesn’t Quite Soar
Devotion is a wonderful tribute to Jesse Brown and his historical impact on history. It features great performances all around, but especially of its two leads, and truly a showcase of Jonathan Major’s tremendous talent as an actor. The film also highlights male vulnerability in a way that adds depth and levels to all of the characters. But despite its strong offerings, Devotion just doesn’t land spectacularly. There is by no means anything wrong, it just doesn’t register a lasting impact. It was an enjoyable film, but not one many would try to experience again. It will be great when used for history classes though.
I give Devotion a 3/5,
Devotion is now playing in theaters.
Release Date: November 23, 2022 (USA)
Director: J. D. Dillard
Cinematography: Erik Messerschmidt
Producers: Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Molly Smith, Rachel Smith
Executive Producers: Glen Powell, J. D. Dillard
Cast: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Joe Jonas, and Thomas Sadoski
Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the inspirational true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots who helped turn the tide in the most brutal battle in the Korean War: Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history and his fellow fighter pilot and friend, Tom Hudner. Their heroic sacrifices and enduring friendship would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.
Are you excited to watch Devotion? Is Glen Powell trying to be the next king of the aviator movies? Who else will watch anything Jonathan Majors is in? Let us know your thoughts and share your reactions to the film with us on social media.