Movie Review: Devotion

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 21, 2022, © Leeham News: The movie Devotion opens Nov. 23 in the US.

Based on a true story, the movie is about the US Navy’s first African American fighter pilot (at the time, “Negro”). The timeline is the Korean War.

Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell in Devotion. Credit: Devotion movie site.

Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell are the lead male actors. Majors was in eight movies before Devotion. Powell appeared in Hidden Figures, about the first African Americans (in this case, all women) employed by NASA. Powell portrayed John Glenn, the USA’s first astronaut to orbit the Earth.

Majors portrays Jesse Brown, the African American. Powell portrays Tom Hudner, who becomes Brown’s closest friend in a squadron that unsurprisingly for the era has its share of bigots.

The movie was made by Black Label Media, founded by Molly Smith, the daughter of FedEx founder Fred Smith. He helped finance the picture. Black Label produced Only the Brave, a movie about smoke jumpers in Arizona who were killed fighting a wildfire; and Sicario, the Day of Soldado.

Devotion takes us through Brown’s sprinkles of his family life, early days in the Navy and his efforts to qualify as a fighter pilot. A talented pilot, Brown initially had some difficulty qualifying for aircraft carrier operations (he was the first nor the last). His heroic actions on a mission over North Korea are followed by his crash landing, trapped in his airplane. He survived the crash landing. Hudner, his wingman, makes a wheels up landing to try and free Brown from the burning wreckage.

It’s a story about devotion to duty and a devotion to your wingman. This is a story about race in the Navy with Brown becoming a pioneer.

Airplanes also are stars in this movie and there is a local connection to Washington State and Oregon.

Real planes, not CGI

The story is compelling and so is the flying. If movie goers liked Top Gun: Maverick for the use of real airplanes and real flying over Washington State’s Cascade Mountain range, they’ll love Devotion. The planes are Korean War era Corsairs and even a Mig jet. All are real and the flying through the Cascades is real, too.

The Cascades double for North Korea’s mountains. The Columbia River between Washington and Oregon double for the bombing and strafing runs to destroy a key bridge. Oregon doubles for the crash landing site in North Korea.

The flying is as exciting as the story is compelling. Rating: Four Stars.

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5 Comments on “Movie Review: Devotion

  1. Its beyond wonderful to see the hugely overdue recognition of the Black Flyers of WWII and this story I had not known about in Korea. At no time should we forget that other minorities had that same stigma imposed on them.

    Equally so were non flying roles in labor roles. In our case the Black battalions that were a major part of building the Alaska Highway (which my folks in subsequent years made two trips to AK where the were able to stick on the 2nd one) And on a side note, being put into the extremes of -40F/C is pure nutty.

    And in the big sweep of the long fight for freedom for all are the women in the intelligence area that played huge and even decisive parts in code breaking.

    Its now fast and its not even but recognition that its not a matter of race or gender let alone orientation but everyone not only deserves the opportunity to be part of our nation, and the reality by not getting that we also shoot ourselves in the foot for marginalization anyone and the fact that ability knows no color, gender or orientation prejudice / barriers and what that can bring to the table for the US as a whole.

  2. @TW. Amen. As I live in the area, I can’t wait to see the movie. A corsair attacking Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River (or whatever)? That will be fabulous.

    • That is great.

      My Mom was a huge part of the State of Alaska lands selection, she went from raising 4 kids to supporting 4 kids, I cannot say how proud I am just to be her son.

      We got to be at the Alaska Statehood ceremonies by luck of where we lived (350 mile trip through mostly Canada on not so great roads in a Nash Metropolitan and then ferry to Juneau )

      Our history was the Alaska Native rights and getting rid of the Jim Crow equivalent. Still a an ongoing struggle. We should find out today if our State Rep will be an Alaskan Native (and German) woman. That will be having come a long ways.

      But I was made aware of that from an early age and from a personnel standpoint as it was an Alaska Native who rescued my folks broken down in a mud bog outside Tannana on the AK highway.

      While I was fully aware of the Black struggles in WII and post (let alone before) the area I had not known about was how hugely women had not just staffed but were leads in the Code Cracking areas (and war industries).

      My mom got into the Surveying end via a program for widows by the state as they need drafts people for that work. All she needed was a hand up and she took it from there.

      Its a tragedy how all too many so called minorities are treated let alone the hand up they need.

  3. Your article don’t mention the fanastic book by Adam Makos.

    I found this book absolutely awe inspiring, it truely openned my eyes to commitment and determination it took from Jesse Brown to achieve his goal in becoming the first African American fighter pilot.

    A fantastic read that I would throughly recommend to anyone.

    I’m looking forward to seeing a film. For me Jesse Brown, Tom Hunder and the rest of squadron represent the true Amercian heros the country should proud of, somewhat refreshing and very welome in these days of MAGA

    • I truly affirm the previous comments.
      I have a deeper analysis of the story.
      Jesse Brown had a deep deep struggle
      To prove himself as a NEGRO fighter
      Pilot. The scene where he is looking
      in the mirror agonizing over the
      bigotry of some of his squadron
      members saying that he shouldn’t
      even be a pilot, I believe motivated
      him to PROVE HIMSELF as a fighter pilot.
      After he was disciplined for insubordination
      for not obeying a direct order from his
      squadron commander, it had a big impact
      on him.
      The scene where the squadron was
      ordered to take out the bridge that was
      critical for the Chinese enemy to
      enter Korea. The flack was SO INTENSE
      that the squadron commander ordered
      the squadron to stand down. The chances
      of being shot down were TOO GREAT!
      Jesse believed that he needed to PROVE
      Jesse continued the assault on the bridge,
      which led to his plane being severely damaged and losing power (and fuel) .
      I don’t believe that he had a death wish,
      but he could not return to the carrier.
      His wing man couldn’t stop him.
      Ultimately, after the deadly crash
      he could not be extracted from the
      crashed and mangled fighter plane
      by his heroic and devoted friend.
      His friend’s grief was overwhelming.
      He accepted the CONGRESSIONAL
      MEDAL OF HONOR, but that was secondary
      to his DEVOTION to Jesse’s widow
      lasted the rest of his life.

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