DEVOTION (2022) l Sony Pictures Canada | November 23, 2022
Starring: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski, Joe Jonas
Director: JD Dillard
Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the harrowing true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy's most celebrated wingmen.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
Devotion features two excellent performances from Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell, two stars on the rise in Hollywood finally getting the leading roles they deserve in this historical action drama that is certain to thrill audiences.
Naval aviation films are having a comeback this year with the success of Top Gun: Maverick which has shattered records at the box office and become one of the most exhilarating films of all time, and next up for this action sub genre is Devotion. The film tells the story of real life aviators and friends Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner, who are two of the most celebrated wingmen in United States history, during their time serving in the Korean War.
With Brown being the first African-American aviator to finish basic training within the U.S. Navy, the film deals with the racism that he experienced from the other members of the navy. It does not sugar coat the nastiness of what he experienced, while at the same time it educates Hudner and the audience on the subject matter. The screenplay addresses the subject matter head on, it does not use the learnings from it to help build the friendship between the main characters, instead leaving the heavy lifting to the two stars. It at times struggles with the focus of the story, showing lots of interesting story lines and ideas but loses the focus on the friendship at the heart of the story.
Luckily, Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell are more than up for the task of bringing this friendship to life. On their own, both of them are on the brink of stardom, Powell with his recent performance in Top Gun: Maverick and Majors with his role as Kang in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and next year’s Creed III. They are incredibly charismatic and have that classic movie star quality to them and their own performances, but together they are an incredible duo. Even in the moments where they are fighting, you can feel the respect between them as they each undergo their characters’ own self development. Powell is charming as a young man trying to check his privilege as a white man while helping his new friend as he would help anyone else, while Majors grapples with the struggle of being a black man in both the military and during the 1950s. Both of them give nuanced performances that have a lot to say even without dialogue, wearing their emotions on their sleeves and drawing the audience into this moving friendship, which makes the final act of the film hit hard. The two of them make the film, and it is no surprise that they are both generating awards buzz around their performances. It’s clear that both Majors and Powell are here to make their mark on Hollywood, so audiences be prepared to be amazed by them if you are not already!
The saying is that behind every great man, there is a great woman, and that is exactly the case with Majors’s character. Co-starring as Brown’s wife Daisy is Christina Jackson, and what a wonderful supporting performance she gives. While she could be just the doting housewife, Jackson is a tour de force and challenges both Majors and Powell at every turn in the story, forcing them to reflect on their actions and values. She makes Daisy a truly strong character, never afraid to voice her true feelings or speak the truth, which is essential in the final act for her incredibly emotional scene with Powell. The supporting cast is not short of any star power, including the likes of Joe Jonas, Daren Kagasoff, Thomas Sadoski, and Serinda Swan, but this film belongs to Majors, Powell and Jackson.
No doubt it will be the aerial action sequences that draw audiences to see this film, and they are fun on a big screen, especially in IMAX. The sound editing and mixing puts the audience into the centre of the battle, as planes fly across the screen and bullets are let loose, helping to create an audio experience that matches the excitement and danger of the visuals unfolding on screen. However, the sequences never reach the heights of the same sequences that we experienced earlier this year in Top Gun: Maverick, which set the bar for every single aviation action film going forward. The CGI sticks out, detracting from the urgency and intensity of the sequences, because we know that they can be generated with less CGI. It is never enough to make the sequences a bore, because the story helps up the emotions of these sequences, but it is not the heart pounding experience that we now know can be captured on film for these sequences.
Packed with exciting action sequences and a remarkable friendship which makes up for the unfocused screenplay, Devotion is an entertaining film that is a showcase for the phenomenal performances of Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell that demands to be seen on the big screen.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5