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Movie Reviews

Devotion ★★★★



Director: JD Dillard

Cast: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, Joe Jonas

Release: 20th January 2023 (Prime Video)

Glen Powell was one of the breakout stars of 2022 with his memorable turn as Jake “Hangman” Seresin in Top Gun: Maverick. His latest film is another aviation-based vehicle, although this time in the shape of Devotion, telling the true story of Korean War pilots Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner with Powell in the role of Hudner and Majors as Brown, the first African-American aviator to complete the United States Navy’s basic flight training program. Directed by J.D Dillard, Devotion tells the story of the pair’s close friendship and their heroic endeavours, with an otherwise by-the-numbers film elevated by the star quality of its leads.

Naturally, comparisons will be drawn to Maverick, not just in the casting of Powell but also in the staging of the flight sequences. While it may not be as earth-shattering as Tom Cruises’ behemoth, this film is entirely different and should be treated as such. The character-building moments and interplay between Hudner and Brown make Devotion soar and prevent it from being shot down by tried and tested stylistic choices and narrative beats.

We’ve come to expect great things from Majors from his work in The Harder They Fall, Loki and Da 5 Bloods, among others, and here he excels as Brown opens himself to Hudner, and they develop a close rapport. Powell is the true find here, building on his work in Maverick as a vastly different airman to Hangman and probably his best role since Everybody Wants Some; here’s hoping we see him in more roles befitting his screen presence (and not just pilots!!). The cast is rounded out by Christina Jackson as Daisy Brown, Thomas Sadoski, Joe Jonas and Daren Kagasoff.

Beyond the central cast, Devotion doesn’t break much new ground for a war film with moments that will feel lifted from other films, but the central friendship and chemistry between Majors and Powell help this film stand out from a packed crowd and help the emotional beats land. The 1950 setting is a highlight with a fun cameo appearance from Serinda Swan as screen icon Elizabeth Taylor. The film shows the difficulties that brown-faced at the time and the obstacles he overcame.

It is a shame in the UK that the film has been put on Amazon Prime without much promotion, as it would surely have been a spectacle to behold on the big screen. This, coupled with the film’s poor Box Office returns, means it has been a flop, but its quality warrants a watch, although perhaps the aviation market was cornered by Tom Cruise in 2022.

Devotion may not break the mould for war or aviation films. Still, it is a well-directed and entertaining film that is perhaps a tad too long but elevated by superb performances from Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell, who make it constantly watchable with entertaining action sequences to keep it off the ground. It’s a shame it’s not found the audience it deserves, but perhaps with a streaming release, it will get some attention and help inform audiences about the story of Jesse Brown and his achievements.

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