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DEVOTION movie review

DEVOTION is directed by JD Dillard. It stars Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, and Joe Jonas. The film is based on a true story from the book by Adam Makos.

In the years following World War II, the threat of communism around the world is on the rise, with a conflict escalating in Korea. Tom Hudner transfers into a squadron in Rhode Island, meeting other pilots including Jesse Brown, the lone African American aviator in the group, fighting his own battles. The squad ships out for Korea as tensions grow, with the squadron taking on seemingly impossible odds in America’s forgotten war.

There are a ton of movies about World War II. There are a ton of movies about the Vietnam War. But the Korean War is often neglected in cinema, which is disappointing and certainly not good for the true American heroes who lived and fought in this conflict. DEVOTION, based on a true story, tries to rectify this, giving us the true story of Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, two aviators who are among the heroic men in the air fighting to protect the free world. It’s a well-cast movie with some fantastic-looking aviation action sequences, but actually takes its time with character development. It’s a little too long and some scenes and plot points feel tertiary, but I’m happy to say it’s not the CGI-laden mess I was expecting, as so many other modern retellings of stories from America’s wars are.

Casting can make or break a movie, and DEVOTION gets two great leading men in the form of Glen Powell (who also played a Naval aviator in TOP GUN: MAVERICK) as Tom Hudner and Jonathan Majors as Jesse Brown, a trailblazer for African American representation in aviation. Both actors have a terrific chemistry with everyone else on camera, and the film takes the time to flesh out the cast and paint these as three-dimensional characters. Character development takes a backseat to action in DEVOTION, but that’s not a bad thing.

The world building, sets, locations, props, and vintage aircraft and cars do a great job transporting audiences back to a 1950s, post-World War II setting. Period details are fantastic, and the production crew claimed when they were making the film that they would use as many real vintage aircraft as possible, keeping CG work to a minimum. The results look spectacular, whether we’re in a family’s home, in an air base, on an aircraft carrier, an Italian gambling resort, or over the gunfire-filled skies of Korea. The crew of DEVOTION certainly showed, well, devotion to their craft. It shows in every scene of the final product.

Only a handful of minor issues work against the film. The running time of the film (according to Wikipedia) is 138 minutes, which feels a bit excessive. The final product could’ve been a good 20 minutes shorter. Actress Elizabeth Taylor appears as a character in the film, portrayed by actress Serinda Swan, and while she’s absolutely beautiful and steals the show in her scenes as the legendary starlet, one must question whether the film needed these sequences, especially given there are other sequences that humanize the pilots in the movie exceptionally well. Some may be put off by the lack of action sequences in the movie (it’s over an hour in before we see any combat, and even then these sequences never last overly long). While I would liked to have seen more of the action scenes, which are spectacular when they happen, this moviegoer is glad to have gotten a well fleshed-out and well-written story of Naval aviators in Korea.

DEVOTION may be a bit too long and may not have enough in the way of action for some viewers, but the end result is quite entertaining thanks to its top-notch cast and gorgeous aviation sequences. It’s far from the CG fest I was expecting, with three-dimensional human characters, stylized but never shallow, telling tales of America’s forgotten way that needed to be told. Highly recommended!

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