The Reel Review
Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy’s first Black pilot, along with fellow aviator Tom Hudner, helped turn the tide in the Korean War with 20 combat mission prior to Brown’s death in 1950. Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country, The Last Black Man in America) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick, Hidden Figures) star in this war biopic based on Adam Makos’ 2014 novel “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice.”
Director J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) lays out a pretty old fashioned, straightforward tell with Devotion. Surprisingly faithful to actual events, it features impressive CGI and a solid supporting cast. Powell, who also served as Executive Producer, is his usual charming self, with Majors effectively illustrating the racism Brown had to navigate, even chronicaling the insults and repeating them to himself in private in an effort to remain stoic when others would insult him.
The biggest drawback in the film is that there just isn’t a lot of story. Given that, it is still surprisingly (and unnecessarily) long, at nearly two and a half hours. And for a war film, Devotion oddly is often dry and lacking in excitement. An emotional gut punch of an ending, however, gives the film a much steadier landing with a stirring closing credits song from castmember Joe Jonas.
• Jesse Brown‘s widow Daisy died in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 2014 at age 87. A schoolteacher for 30 years, she was survived by her daughter Pamela and a daughter Dedra from her second marriage in 1957 and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
• Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner did, in fact, meet actress Elizabeth Taylor while in Cannes, at the hotel cafe where she was staying. Taylor subsequently visited their ship, the USS Leyte.
• The Navy Medal of Honor worn by Glen Powell at the end of the film is the actual medal that President Harry Truman gave Tom Hudner in 1951. Hudner died at his home in Concord, Massachusetts in 2017 at the age of 93.
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