The Korean War is often referred to as the forgotten war. With much of the attention spent on World War II and then the Vietnam war, there are many who forget those who gave their lives in defense of freedom in Korea. I also find it interesting that with the vast number of films and novels dedicated to all the other major wars, that even in the literary or cinematic universes there is still very little around the Korean war. One of my all-time favorite novels, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, by renowned author James Michener was one of my very first glimpses into aviators during the Korean War, so much so that when I first saw the preview for Devotion, I knew it would be a film not to be missed.
Devotion is based on a true story surrounding a group of Corsair F4U pilots fresh out of training. All of whom were to young to be part of the “Big Dance”, the reference to fighting Japanese and Nazi pilots during World War II. Flying training missions is the excitement of their day-to-day lives until the North Koreans flood over the 38th parallel and the pilots are called into service.
Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) is one of the few African American naval aviators and is treated like a celebrity among other African American naval recruits. Unfortunately, the road to get where he is is littered with abuse and racism. Everyone from his commanding officer in flight school, to his own fellow servicemen are all waiting for him to fail. Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) fresh out of the naval academy, is tasked as his wingman, and ultimately the man who will be tasked to watch over him during their incredible journey.
Introduced to one of the navy’s most capable fighter/bomber of the time the Corsair F4U, each aviator must learn to handle this monstrosity of a plane and master it in a short time frame before being thrust into battle. During the film the Corsair itself will become one of the most pivotal supporting cast members as much as any living and breathing individual.
It’s amazing how incredible the visuals of modern films have advanced over the past two decades. I remember thinking that Pearl Harbor had done an incredible job bringing the sights and sounds of WW2 to the big screen. Devotion is a marvel to behold, seeing a Corsair go up against a Mig-15 on the big screen was truly mind blowing. The sights and sounds are an absolute thrill and bring to life the true horror of war.
For those going to see Devotion strictly for its arial combat, you might be a bit disappointed. I’ve heard it compared to as Top Gun during the Korean War, and in some ways, I think that is a fair assessment. Much like Top Gun, there certainly is some amazing combat scenes, but the film is much more focused on building the relationships amongst the characters, then a two hour and twenty-minute dogfight. We see the friendship between Tom and Jesse develop and grow through the entirety of the film, while it might seem a little long at times, it shows that unlike many films, the two didn’t just meet and become instant friends. Jesse has a lot of baggage that he carries throughout his life, and always flies with a chip on his shoulder, this is something the two friends simply can’t overcome in a short amount of time.
Devotion, while anchored by its leading men, are supported by an outstanding cast. Christina Jackson does an outstanding job as the incredibly strong and independent wife to Jesse. In a neighborhood and world that is not welcoming to them, she never backs down from an altercation, and you know via her portrayal of Daisy Brown, that she’ll manage just fine while he’s away. Joe Jonas as Marty Goode is another outstanding portrayal, as well as the rest of the actors who make up the entire fighter wing.
Devotion is a film about brotherhood, during a time when many people forget. It’s about the sacrifices that are made every time the military is called into action. With so much attention being given to practically every other war in history, it’s about time that the “Forgotten War” is thrust back into the spotlight. That being said, this is based on a true story, and character development is the primary focus. The film did drag from time to time, and for those looking for a more exciting “War” movie, might leave a little disappointed. Afterall, this isn’t a historical account of the Korean War, only an account of one man’s experience, and those who surrounded him. However, if you are looking for an outstanding film to see this Thanksgiving weekend, I’d highly recommend Devotion. It may leave many of those weeping throughout, but that’s a testament to the strength its characters provide.
4 out of 5 stars