Critic’s Rating : / 5
Devotion Movie Review : This one soars due to its heartwarming story about real men
Review: From its opening scene itself, director J.D. Dillard’s epic war drama ‘Devotion’ establishes itself as a story about its characters as people and not a mindless actioner that glorifies guns and bloodshed. We are seamlessly introduced to a group of young US Naval fighter pilots, who are still earning their stripes in the training but it’s a comfort that cannot be afforded to them for long. The year is 1950 and soon it will be time for them to buckle up and start flying into the enemy zone. But before that happens, two most starkly distinct squadrons of the team form an unusual bond that goes beyond their self-belief, origin, colour and background. Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), is America’s first Black pilot to earn his wings in the Naval training program despite his own apprehensions, fears and vulnerabilities while his fellow naval aviator Lt. Tom Hudner (Glen Powell), is super confident and clearly the US Navy’s most dependable pilot, who has aced his performance in the training. While Brown is initially reluctant in trusting Hudner, it’s his earnest approach and genuine concern that makes him allow him inside his home.
Call it a slow-burn and unlike most other war movies, but ‘Devotion’ thrives on its human connection and vulnerability of the steely men, who leave their families behind to fight for their nation. Dillard and his writers (Jake Crane and Jonathan Stewart) skillfully adapt their screenplay to reflect the heartwarming quality of Adam Makos’ book. And this is done with God-like detail. From recreating the world of 1950s in every aspect of the film like sets, locations, props and costumes to introducing star characters like Elizabeth Taylor (Serinda Swan), who invites the boys at a plush Cannes casino. The narrative is thus filled with spurts of life and hope rather than hopelessness of death and war. There are fewer actual mid-air action scenes but all of them executed with finesse and realism. These scenes are brought to life with a rousing score (by Chanda Dancy) and ace cinematography (Erik Messerschmidt).
Due to the very nature of its non-fiction plot and the writing of the screenplay, the film tends to lose pace. Hence, it feels lengthy and slightly repetitive. However, it helps in building the context and getting the audience invested in the story of its two heroes. The performances across the board are superlative with Majors and Powell excelling in their respective parts. Christina Jackson provides good support as Brown’s supportive and endearing wife Daisy. The subtext of racism is effectively portrayed on screen, in a way that makes one wonder how the Western world dealt with a gamut of progressive and equally regressive practices in as early as 1950.
‘Devotion’ is a different war film that introduces us to a lesser-known slice of history. Its heroism lies in being true to its characters and their stories rather than trying hard to make it a larger-than-life war drama without a beating heart.