Stories of those who lived, not for themselves, but for others can have great influence in this time when it seems like so many people are just looking out for number one. Devotion is one such story that not only highlights selfless living but tragic racism that is, unfortunately, still an all-too-familiar happening in our own day and age.
It's 1950 and naval aviators train in the sky but some are bummed that they missed "The Big Show" as aerial fighting in World War II was called. When Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) joins Fighter Squadron 32, he's assigned as wingman to Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors). Jesse also happens to be the first African-American fighter pilot but his all-white squadron mates seem to accept him for the talented, gutsy pilot he is.
At home, Jesse's wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson), takes care of their daughter and their home with joy and devotion to her husband. When their car breaks down, Hudner drives Jesse home and meets his family. Tom seems a tad uncomfortable to be in a black family's home but once he experiences Jesse's home life, his respect for his friend only increases. He tells Daisy, "It's good to know the men you're flying with. To see what they're fighting for." When the squadron gets assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Leyte at the outset of the Korean war, Daisy experiences what any wife does watching her husband go to war. She makes Tom promise to "be there" for Jesse. Incidentally, the families of Jesse and Tom are still great friends today.
Christina Jackson and Jonathan Majors in "Devotion." © 2022 Sony Pictures Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
Directed by J.D. Dillard and based on the book of the same name by Adam Makos, Devotion, unfortunately, fails to give Jesse Brown, a worthwhile hero, the film he deserves. Even though Majors gives a rounded performance as Jesse, devoted family man and patriot, the film never explains the why of his devotion. The audience is left looking for a reason to connect with these characters on an emotional level.
The most moving scene of the film (in my humble opinion) comes when Jesse's psyching himself up for a test flight. Trained on a smaller airplane, he (and his mates) have to learn to fly and land the F4U-Corsair, nicknamed "the Widow Maker" because its long nose made it almost impossible for the pilot to see in front of him. Boasting that he could fly anything, Jesse feels the pressure of flying – and landing – the Corsair on the aircraft carrier. He peers into the mirror and repeats every racial slur that has ever been leveled at him. It's a poignant scene to watch but it shows Jesse's ability to rise above his experience of racism to do what he needs to do for his family and his country.
Jonathan Majors as Jesse Brown in "Devotion." © 2022 Sony Pictures Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
Even though the film isn't going to knock your socks off, it's still worth the watch. The aerial battles are brilliantly filmed and the sound design makes you feel like you're right there with Tom and Jesse as they provide air support for the troops on the ground at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell in "Devotion." © 2022 Sony Pictures Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
What makes the film worth seeing is the history of the story which deserves to be better known. For it is heroes like Jesse Brown, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Tom Hudner, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, who can inspire us who live today to remember our heroes and rise above our trials and tribulations just like they did.