• Nate Adams

'Devotion' review: Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell lead so-so war epic

Courtesy of Sony

 

Riding on the coattails of the Blockbuster juggernaut “Top Gun Maverick,” comes J.D. Dillard’s smoothly constructed war epic “Devotion,” an inspired-by-a-true-story-tale about the Navy’s first Black aviator Jesse Brown along with his relationship opposite wingman Tom Hudner. The movie ultimately gets the job done, but not without some turbulence. Led by two charismatic performers, Jonathan Majors whose recent batting average, “Lovecraft Country,” the forthcoming “Creed III” and a seismic baddie in the Marvel cinematic universe, is unmatched, and the slick Glen Powell who was last seen in the aforementioned “Top Gun Maverick” as the coy Hangman in case you were wondering why Sony decided to move “Devotion” around the release schedule several times. 


“Devotion” begins its journey in 1950 as Hudner gets stationed with a fleet in Rhode Island after having just “missed” joining the frontlines in World War II: “We were born too late” he remorses. Lucky for him, Russia has started developing its own nuclear arsenal and Washington wants troops on alert. Hudner and his fellow pilots, who, as written, have minimal personality traits or characteristics aside from one of them being played by pop star Joe Jonas, are prepared for combat and their Commander (played by Thomas Sadoski - “The Newsroom”) wants them ready for the worst. 


Aside from the combat aspect of “Devotion,” which is mild at best, there’s a social justice angle that’s used to less than stellar results. Brown being the sole African-American pilot on base makes him an immediate target, but the movie paints the racist rhetoric and treatment he endures with broad strokes. White police officers conveniently knock at his door because he and his wife, Daisy (played exceptionally by Christina Jackson) are being “too loud;” and then there’s a stint where Time magazine shows up to make him the poster child for colored enlistment. Another scene showcases a sloshed Elizabeth Taylor (Serina Swan) acting baffled that the Navy allows “colored folk” into the Air Force. 


The screenplay by Jake Crane and Jonathan A.H. Stewart keeps the real issues at a distance even as the convoluted plot never makes it clear why these men are headed into enemy territory. Regardless, the final stretch, where Hudner and Brown have to rely on each other in the snowy mountains of North Korea, offers a stirring tribute to the heroics both men displayed in their dereliction of duty. It’s in these final moments that “Devotion” finds the poignancy it’s been desperately searching for and where it just barely chugs over the finish line.  


Grade: C+ 


DEVOTION is now playing in theaters.