Movie Review: “Devotion”


Image by Eli Ade for The UCSD Guardian

Kamiah Johnson, A&E Co-Editor

“Devotion” director J.D Dillard delivers a simple heroic tale of friendship in this wartime drama.

Based on actual events, “Devotion” tells the story of the first African American aviator Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), and his wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), exploring their friendship and bond as they fight side-by-side in the Korean War. Before the film begins, the filmmakers tell the audience that this is a forgotten story during a forgotten time of the war. Jesse Brown’s story is one many are not familiar with, and the movie treats his story with the care and respect it deserves. 

Although this film is also based on Adam Makos’ book “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” which delves into  the friendship between Brown and Hudner, the film doesn’t translate that friendship onto the screen. At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Brown who meets Hudner soon after. The two don’t hit it off immediately, but slowly, they start to bond as their squadron prepares to go to war. However, it takes the majority of the film for them to become friends. When Hudner is invited over to Brown’s home, he meets his wife and daughter who tells him he is only the second person Brown has invited from the squadron. We are led to believe this is the start of their friendship; however, Brown still keeps Hudner at an arm’s length for the entirety of the film. Their friendship is rudimentary and unexceptional, sometimes making it hard to even root for them, which is concerning considering how it is the entire basis of the film. What doesn’t help is the film’s pacing. Since this is a war drama, you would expect this to hit the emotional beats it should; instead, they drag out the story which doesn’t do it any favors. It doesn’t go beyond your average friendship drama and settles for a meager drama. 

Despite the writing and pacing issues, Majors and Powell shine. They don’t let the film’s issues hinder them from giving great performances. Majors delivers an emotional performance throughout, particularly in the scene where he stares at himself in the mirror as he berates himself with a list of every racial slur and insult anyone has told him. It’s truly hard to watch, but also riveting to see. Powell fits right into the naval scene, especially with everyone being familiar with his role in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Along with the great performances, the film also delivers amazing visuals. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt beautifully captures the landscapes and aerial fights. Messerschmidt even makes the scenes on the ground look captivating, especially when they visit Cannes, France. 

“Devotion” is an attempt at a typical war drama, telling a harrowing true story that should be more well known. While Majors and Powell’s performances are great, they can’t save the film from its restrictive writing that prevents the film from tapping into something better. Despite the striking visuals, it doesn’t transcend conventional war drama tropes, but doesn’t try to either. It’s a simple story about heroism, friendship, and sacrifice. 

Grade: C
Directed by: J.D Dillard
Starring: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell
Release Date: November 23, 2022
Rated: PG-13

Image courtesy of FIlm Threat