REASON: During the Korean War, Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), one of the first black naval aviators, and his wingman, Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), became close friends with a deadly mission that ultimately proved their unfailing devotion to each other .

REVIEW: In the midst of so many art films here at TIFF, it’s still refreshing to know that a well-crafted, mainstream, major-studio-potential blockbuster can still make its way in. Sporting a huge up-and-coming star in Glen Powell, Devotion is exceedingly well-timed, having just played another naval aviator to massive success Top Gun: Maverick. Pairing him with Jonathan Majors, who is about to stay big new villain in the next series of Marvel movies, it could prove to be a savvy move for Sony, likely to appeal to the same audience that liked Maverick so much. This is another effortless crowd pleaser and, like Maverick, tells a moving story of camaraderie under fire. Heck, this one even has the benefit of being true. Some may laugh at its simplicity, but it more than does the job in terms of pure entertainment.

Director JD Dillard, who directed indies Sleight and Girlfriend, proves more than up to making a blockbuster, and one with a lot of heart to boot. The movie wouldn’t work if you didn’t buy into the friendship between the two leads, and the Majors/Powell pairing proves to be a strong one. Majors’ Brown is the first black airman to complete the US Navy’s basic flight training program. His journey to “the big show,” as they call it, has been fraught and left him guarded. When the other men are partying, he is at home with his wife (Christina Jackson) and daughter. Neither man gets to meet his family. Still, Hudner, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and already a lieutenant, gets a rare invitation where the two earn each other’s respect early on. Their bond grows once they are sent into battle, but the “bromance” is based more on mutual respect and admiration than pure emotion.

When I Powell interviewed a few months ago i found out he was a real certified pilot. Devotion has a similar probability of Top Gun: Maverick in that they try to give you an idea of ​​what it might be like to be a Naval Aviator. The guys are shown doing fancy maneuvers in their Bearcats, but once they switch to Corsairs, the flying becomes a lot less flashy as they’re all just learning the basics. A large part of the plot revolves around whether they will be able to land the planes on naval vessels, which is a surprisingly unsexy but realistic plot.

The film gets a little uneven in the middle section, where a long part of the film revolves around the airmen going on a country vacation and meeting Elizabeth Taylor (Serinda Swan) in Cannes. It stretches the runtime a little too much, as it covers territory already covered elsewhere in the film, such as Hudner’s anger at Brown for not standing up for himself in the face of racist bullies. Perhaps the best part of the film that drives home the message revolves around a gentle rebuke Hudner gives Brown in a flight report that significantly derails the latter’s career. As he explains, a black mark may mean very little to a white airman, but it is a career killer for the first black airman.

In fact, the film delves into the hard-won battles Brown had to fight to further his career and shows what an inspiration he was to other black soldiers. But for the most part, the core members of his flight crew, including Joe Jonas as co-pilot and Thomas Sadoski as their CO, are shown to be supportive.

In many ways, Devotion reminiscent of the war films we got from the short post-Saving Private Ryan cycle in the 2000s. It covers a conflict rarely depicted in American film – the Korean War. Perhaps this is because China and the US were on opposite sides, and until now Hollywood has played it a bit safe in that regard (the opposite can be said of China, with tentpoles like the latest Battle of Lake Changjin. A few years ago, it is doubtful that this film about the so-called “Forgotten War” would have been made.

Although it is conventional in a slightly old fashioned way, Devotion is ultimately a very moving portrayal of the bonds between soldiers that endure long after the war they fought in has ended. Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors are both exceptional, and JD Dillard has done an excellent job of making a suitably epic war film that should earn a lot of respect from the same audience that made Top Gun: Maverick a blow.

Devotion trailer Jonathan Majors Glen Powell


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