Devotion Review

I have not heard about Jesse Brown until I watched Devotion. Devotion tells the story of the first African-American U.S. Navy fighter pilot who fought during the Korean War and beautifully shares this story with the viewer. The movie focuses on not only the struggles that Jesse went through while serving but also highlights the friendships that he made and trusted.

If you have seen the commercials for Devotion you might compare it to another recent movie involving fighter planes and pilots. Yes, one of the actors in Devotion was in that movie but that is where the similarities stop. While both movies will have their audience and their own success, Devotion focuses on how one man overcomes what is in front of him to leave his mark on the world.

The movie starts off with Tom Hurder, played by Glenn Powell, joining the crew of established pilots. They go on a routine flying procedure and Jesse Brown, played amazingly by Jonathan Majors, tells Tom to keep up with him while they go on a detour. The two zig-zag between a few boats that are out on the water and fly over a home in a residential area. Not knowing what just happened Tom sees it as Jesse’s way of welcoming him to the group.

Jesse never asks any of the men for any special treatment and by their interaction, it seems like this camaraderie has been in place for years. Jesse is the best at what he does and he does not take his role for granted. When informed that the crew will learn to start flying F4U Corsairs they all prepare for it with Jesse working harder than the other guys.

There is a scene in the movie that is hard to watch because it is so powerful and truthful. Before going out to the field to fly the new plane Jesse is staring at himself in the mirror. The scene is shot in the POV of the mirror, so Jesse’s face is front and center on the screen. Jesse starts insulting and hurling racist slurs at himself. He is using words that were spoken to him by white soldiers, pilots, and commanding officers when he was enrolled in the pilot program. It is jarring to see Major’s reaction and how the tears just roll from his eyes as speaks to himself this way. In a Q&A during the Chicago International Film Festival screening of the movie, Majors stated that a lot of those lines were improvised. He was saying lines that he thought Jesse would hear but also lines that have been thrown at him.

While the film does not shy away from the truth about Jesse we are also shown what makes him smile and that’s his family. The relationship between Jesse and his wife Daisy, played by Christina Jackson. We see how even though their neighbors just see them for the color they are they are living happily in their home. Jesse is the perfect husband and father as he always makes sure his family has what they need. He slowly brings Tom around to his household, little by little showing Tom who he is.

This is the basis of this movie: Who can you trust? Jesse is careful with opening up to others and keeps his circle small. He slowly opens up to Tom and little by little they become good friends. There are moments in the film when Tom witnesses the abuse firsthand and wants to stick up for Jesse but he stops him from doing it. Jesse always wants to take the high road and teaches Tom the importance of doing that.

JD Dillard creates a beautiful film with his cinematography. Some of the images look like they can be paintings that were brought to life. The aerial photography puts the viewer in the middle of the action and envelops you with all of the action that is on the screen. Dillard perfectly balances the human aspect of Jesse’s life and the rigidity of his military life. This is more a film about family than it is about airplanes.

Devotion was part of the Black Perspectives program during the Chicago International Film Festival

Final Thoughts: Devotion is a fantastic movie that needs to be seen. Jesse Brown’s story is one that I did not know about and am glad that I was introduced to his story. While there may be comparisons to another movie about flying planes, Devotion is more about the relationships between friends and family.

Kid-Friendly: The movie is questionable in being kid-friendly. This is a story that children need to hear due to it probably not being taught in school. Jesse Brown’s story should be part of every child’s education. There are scenes and language that might be a little too intense for younger children.

Violence: There are scenes from the battlefield that show soldiers shooting at each other. There is a fight between the pilots and Marines in one scene.

Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the harrowing true story of Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), two elite U.S. Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

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