Devotion Review – IGN

Devotion hits theaters on November 23, 2022.

War dramas based on true stories are often the easiest and most accessible way to introduce audiences to their own history and heroes. However, telling such stories can get thorny when the hero is a black US serviceman, as doing justice to his journey inevitably means grappling with challenges beyond those inherent in wartime. And those obstacles often represent pieces of American history that many choose to ignore, even if doing so erases the contributions of talented and courageous people. But when done right, it’s the kind of story that can be a transformative experience. Centering on Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the first black pilot to earn his wings in the US Navy’s basic flight training program, Devotion is exactly that kind of movie. . It centers on Brown’s unlikely friendship with his naval aviator colleague, Lt. Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), in the early days of a war that tested both his training and his personal relationship. For many moviegoers, the Top Gun duology shapes how we engage with fighter pilot stories. This true story of elite aviators offers a unique opportunity to replace colorful fiction with compelling reality. After all, not all heroes wear capes; some flew Vought F4U-4 Corsairs into North Korean airspace to save lives.

Based on the book of the same name, Devotion begins with Hudner, the last member of the VF-32 squadron, arriving at the base. He walks into the team locker room just in time to catch Brown viciously yelling at himself in the adjoining bathroom area. It’s a surprising, if seemingly strange, introduction to the man, which sets the stage for Majors’ deeply moving performance, as he epitomizes Brown’s vulnerabilities and unsettling coping mechanisms. Instead of following Brown as he works to qualify as a fighter pilot, the story is set just before the attack that sparks the war between North and South Korea. It’s a smart decision that leads to a war story centered on the bonds between men.

Shortly after meeting Brown, the other members of the team show up. They are a jovial bunch who are quick to offer Hudner a warm welcome; therefore, on the surface, it is Brown’s reserved attitude that is most noticeable, not the fact that he is the only member of the black squad. is to face the why behind his distancing that will kick you in the stomach. Dillard aptly incorporates the standard elements of a war movie, leveraging his ensemble for their dry wit and unspoken commitment to each other to counter the heaviness of the looming danger. The devotion does not lack action, but the characters are not just a vehicle to narrate the anxiety-inducing intensity and epic of battle.

Dillard rightly keeps the lens focused on Majors as he navigates precarious circumstances as the only black pilot in the Navy. With contained power, Majors masterfully conveys that Brown does not trust easily. Though confident in his abilities, he openly tests the mettle of his squadmates. He rejects any attempt to “defend” him when others disrespect him or threaten him. Brown doesn’t want or need a savior, but he would appreciate a friend he can trust to back him up. Yes Top Gun: Maverick Served as a welcome reminder of what you love about aviation movies, then Dillard’s Korean War movie marries those propulsive aerial sequences and cockpit point of view with a compelling true story that’s sure to change the way you think about a pilot and his wingman. Fortunately, the script balances his character study with sharp action and thoughtful story progression on and off the air.

Meanwhile, Glen Powell’s Tom Hudner is not an audience representative for “discovering” the realities of racism. This is 1950. While the loss of life may have forced the US military to move away from open segregation and disenfranchisement of black service members, that doesn’t mean their presence was readily accepted. . The fight against blackness and prejudice are daily facts of life, and Powell portrays Hudner with the assertiveness and convincing naiveté of the privileged. Learning about what motivated him to join the Navy defines his role in the team with relatable clarity. This is as much his story as it is Brown’s because Hudner’s inability to understand why his squadmate is hesitant to put his faith in him adds valuable perspective as their relationship progresses. Breaking down barriers and changing perspectives was (and still is) an inescapable byproduct of Black people striving to live fulfilling lives in oppressive circumstances. It can become a cage of its own. With this in mind, Devotion is more than chronicling the relationship between Brown and Hudner’s white partner.

It is clear that Hudner and Brown are ace pilots. So watching the squadron’s first milestone, qualifying for carrier landings, is all the more exciting when it becomes clear that something more than skill and mastery of his aircraft continues to hinder Brown’s performance. And when you eventually learn what’s tripping you up, you, like Hudner, won’t be able to walk away from the stark truth that is the black experience in a world designed to exclude blacks.

Dillard brazenly rejects the laziness of relying on physical violence to expose the harm Brown can suffer as a result of racism.

The direction of Dillard’s story is persistently overlapped in antagonistic encounters to highlight the bias Brown constantly faces. An anonymous noise report that leads the police to his family’s doorstep. He’ll be forced to pose for pictures and hope she’ll parrot PR quotes about his career for reporters. Swallowing racist disrespect from a Marine on the ship. Each incident establishes the reasons for Brown’s trust issues. Dillard brazenly rejects the laziness of relying on physical violence to expose the harm Brown can suffer as a result of racism. The impact is even greater as Dillard is careful to work in moments of respect, joy and camaraderie to provide balance. This is not a story intended to paint everyone as raging racists, just as he is not ignorant of the fact that Brown succeeds despite the racist system working as designed. Hudner and the other members of the squad do not actively alienate Brown. They just don’t consider the impact that something seemingly insignificant to them would likely be devastating to Brown. It is risky to choose subtlety and normality over the most sensationalized version of discrimination. The pervasiveness and banality of anti-blackness makes people uncomfortable. Moving away from the expected physically more violent angle to make room for the work this squad does to grow as a unit gives the story its real punch. Because this is, again, both the Hudner story and the Brown story.

The first half of the film reveals Brown’s love of flying and family. Unlike his single compatriots, he is a devoted husband and father. His wife, Daisy (brought to life with delightful warmth and humor by Christina Jackson), is both his anchor and his safe haven. Powell’s confident and charismatic Hudner acts as the perfect complement to Majors’ stoic intensity and restrained vulnerability. Hudner defied family expectations by joining the military. He is a true believer, committed to service. Each pilot finds common ground even as they struggle to agree. Dillard’s direction errs on the side of “show” rather than “tell,” reinforcing the unspoken with strategic conversations between characters at crucial moments over heavy-handed data dumps. The end result is a film that offers its lessons on friendship and microaggressions without breaking out of its narrative pocket.

By the time the combat portion of Devotion begins, it’s impossible not to be fully invested in this team. The aerial sequences, spectacular as they are, have more than a touch of grounded authenticity. Even through action choreography, each member of this small ensemble acts to make the whole greater than its parts. So when the third act takes a grim turn, the macro elements of warfare and engaging with the enemy ring real. There aren’t many modern stories built around the Korean War; let alone put racial dynamics front and center from a black person’s perspective. It may seem counterintuitive, but refusing to stray from the topic actually leaves room for the story of a friendship between two men of different races without it becoming a superficial saving narrative that hurts its subjects. Devotion is a story about friendship, commitment, and the kind of honest connection that leaves no one behind. It’s packed with painful twists and turns, exciting action, and the kind of hope that never goes out of style.