“Devotion” Movie Review

Inspired by a true story, “Devotion” depicts both the cinematic thrill of flying machines and heartfelt friendship through the tragedy of war in an intense and emotional movie.


For audiences who enjoy intense films surrounding fighter pilots and the tragedy of war, 2022 has definitely been a good year. With “Top Gun: Maverick” as the awe-inspiring frontrunner and “All Quiet on the Western Front” as the gut-wrenching war horror, this year indeed delivered a set of films that army-crawl their way through the jarring reality of historical wars. Another movie was recently added to the mix that provides the same high-flying pilots and action shots that the previous two films captured while also reminding viewers of the real sacrifices of war. And that is “Devotion.”

Based on the true story of Naval Aviator Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), the film’s title may not make sense at first, but as the story slowly starts to unravel, we begin to see the different forms of devotion. Brown is a devoted man to his career in the Navy and he’s devoted to his wife (Christina Jackson) and their daughter. However, the real exploration of devotion for Brown is his unlikely friendship with his wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), which has carried on into the present today. 

Director J.D. Dillard approaches Brown and Hudner’s story from a place of deep respect, but at the same time, doesn’t sugarcoat the situation or embellish the raw account laid out in the titled book.

Brown was the first Black man to finish the U.S. Navy’s basic flight training program. Paired with Hudner, they hoped to turn the tables in the most brutal battle of the Korean War. Ultimately, their heroic sacrifices made them both the most commemorated wingmen. Brown was celebrated for breaking barriers and was even photographed for Life magazine. Since “Devotion” is set during the Korean War, at the time when acceptance wasn’t celebrated, the film depicts how Brown was subject to heavy racism from his peers, from his neighbors and even from other soldiers. Even though this war is largely viewed as the “Forgotten War,” the film brings to light the direct impacts it had (and still has) on modern warfare and loyalty.

“Devotion” will likely be compared to “Maverick” as both stories follow familiar beats and both have the charming aviator: Glen Powell. But beyond the genre, drawing a deep comparison between the two would be an injustice to what “Devotion” intends to be. Dillard doesn’t lean into awe, but rather, on to the powerhouse of emotions that Majors conveys in his role, along with the compassion that Powell drives. 

The only area “Devotion” falls short of perfection is in the cinematography. After watching “Maverick” more than five times, I grew accustomed to the spectacular shots and stunts that it fantastically delivered. So, watching “Devotion” fail to live up to my own visual expectations was a disappointment (not trying to be the person to compare the two). Even though the brilliant blue skies allow the planes to gently pop off the screen, the movie’s settings felt washed out. It may be possible that filmmakers wanted to show that “1950s perspective,” but unfortunately, the unnecessary darkness in some scenes consumes the true vibrancy of emotion on display.

“Devotion” wouldn’t be the same without Majors and Powell. Watching them grow into the dynamic duo they are, not only as wingmen but also as friends, made the entire movie. Their brotherhood and care for one another highlight just how powerful support can be in times of extreme duress. The actors compellingly capture the connection between Brown and Hudner that brings a performance worthy of their legacy. 

While “Devotion” may not aim to reinvent the genre, it does engrave its own space in this year’s impressive line of war films. It’s a solid, emotional story that illustrates the sad realities of war and allows viewers a mere glimpse at the sacrifices a handful of people make for their country.