Devotion (2022): A Compelling, Soaring Journey with Fine Chemistry Between Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors
“Devotion” is directed by J.D. Dillard (Sleight, Sweetheart) and stars Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country), Glen Powell (The Dark Knight Rises, Hidden Figures), Christina Jackson (The Good Fight, Swaggers), Joe Jonas (Camp Rock, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom, Life in Pieces), and Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Village). This film is based on a book by Adam Makos, and simultaneously inspired by true events during the Korean War. The story mainly centers around the bond between two naval pilots, Tom Hudner and Jesse Brown, as they navigate themselves through various periods during said war.
As a reviewer, it is hard not to compare one film to another. This is especially true considering how most of the movies I review are those that come out within the year of release, therefore I will sometimes say “x” film is similar to “y” flick, because “x” and “y” are at the movies at the same time or at similar times. It is a repetitive habit, but one I do not see myself quitting anytime soon because they involve movies that continue to be on people’s minds, including my own. “Devotion” is no exception to this rule because it released about a half a year after one of the most successful films in a long time, “Top Gun: Maverick.” I am not saying that “Devotion” is a carbon copy of “Top Gun: Maverick.” In fact, it is far from it. For one thing, “Devotion” is based on a true story whereas “Top Gun: Maverick” is a fictionalized sequel. “Devotion” is also comparatively dramatic to “Top Gun: Maverick” despite the latter having glimmers of emotion.
This leads me to my first positive of “Devotion,” which is that the narrative kept me compelled from start to finish. Due to my country’s supposedly mediocre educational system, I maybe do not think about U.S. history as much as I should. I was thrilled with the story of “Devotion” to the point where I felt somewhat sorry for myself that I did not think about these pilots all that much earlier. What really helps this movie is not just having a story as solid as this, but having a duo of actors who are clearly meant to be together. Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors are two fine actors on their own, but if you put them together in a movie like this, the formula is bound to deliver something special. While there are better lead and supporting performances I have seen this year, I cannot think of many acting duos that are as memorable or likable as this one.
And no, this does not mean that this film fails to do what a lot of other war-set films like “Dunkirk” and “1917” manage to do effectively, which is immerse me into the environment of the war itself. Now, unlike those films, this is more of a story where we get to know the characters themselves and less of a run to the finish line for survival. I would not call this a bad thing, but if you are looking for a certain type of film, now you know which one you are in for.
I would say when it comes to the immersion factor though, I would say “Dunkirk” and “1917” did it better because those films felt like technical experiments or feats whereas “Devotion,” again, is an extended tale perhaps putting story and characterization in the forefront. However, the sound mixing is quite good and the aerial shots are occasionally nice to see in action. The film does not appear reinvent the wheel with its technical aspects, but is also pretty looking enough to be worth checking out in whatever theater it is playing in near you. I should note, that this film has been out for a month and it is not playing in a ton of locations near me, but it was worth the 20 minute trek to a nearby town.
Speaking of immersion, I was also kind of impressed with some of the production design. Part of the movie takes place in a French casino and it was all sandy yet rugged. The interior of Brown’s home is also a standout. Many of the locations in this film are impressive to say the least.
My favorite aspect of the narrative behind “Devotion” is probably not even anything having to do with war itself, which is prominently featured in the film. However my favorite parts of the film simply come through the training, all the preparation that went into the events that followed. To be specific, there are scenes where we see the pilots trying to land their plane. Usually when it comes to these war stories and films, the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the protagonist is how they deal with being on the battlefield. I love how effectively “Devotion” has not only brought stakes in terms of the fight itself, but all the work that leads up to it. We see Jesse Brown nervous not because he anticipates he is going to get killed by the opposition, but because he fears he cannot land his own plane. Going back to “Top Gun: Maverick,” much of that movie, like its predecessor, is about training to fight an enemy and less about fighting the enemy itself. What makes “Devotion” work is how effectively the training, which reminded me of “Top Gun: Maverick” at times but with a more serious vibe, was executed in terms of the story and how that made everything in terms of the actual conflict that lied ahead more exciting.
There are not many major problems I have with “Devotion,” although I do think a few of the supporting characters are somewhat unmemorable. The real highlights of the character lineup in “Devotion” are the two leads. Although I must also say Christina Jackson shines as Daisy Brown. Although on the military side, unless I went to IMDb to find out, I could not tell you anybody’s name or real descriptive aspects of their personality. Then again, the story is not about them, so this is somewhat forgivable. Although “Devotion” is a thrilling, entertaining story nevertheless, and it is one that if given the opportunity, you should check out.
In the end, when it comes to movies about the navy, “Devotion” is no “Top Gun: Maverick,” but if you are looking for a more serious take on the subject matter, this is a a story that is worth your time. I did not know what to expect with “Devotion,” but I left the film having had a fine experience. Glen Powell is solid, Jonathan Majors is excellent, and the story is one that kept me interested to the very last second. I am going to give “Devotion” a 7/10.
“Devotion” is now playing in theaters. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! Within a matter of days, I will be going to see one of my most anticipated movies in history. For the record, when I did my most anticipated movies of 2021 list, this made the #2 spot. Did I say 2021? Yes I did. It was supposed to come out then, but it got delayed to the following year. That film my friends, is “Babylon.” I know the film is not making a lot of money right now, but it is the kind of film that can get me in the door. I just have to find the right day to enter that door.
Also, I want to remind everyone that the end of the year is almost here, and pretty soon I will be counting down my best and worst films of 2022! I want to give a little housekeeping in advance and note that this year’s set of lists is going to be a little different, and it is inspired by a tactic from one of my favorite YouTube personalities, John Campea. This year, instead of doing my top 10 best list first, which I have always done in the past, I am going to start with the worst list. The reason for that is because I often share my best list first, leave it up for a day, and then the next, I am onto the worst, which has sometimes left me a break in regard to posting new material. Within that break, I have the worst list linked to my Instagram (realscenebefore) because Instagram hates links for some reason, and that means my Instagram followers might end up seeing my worst list for a longer period of time than my best. And on Scene Before I want people to remember me for what I love and not what I hate. I love doing the worst lists, and I will still do them, but I do not want to be a monster. That said, if you want to see these lists and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Devotion?” What did you think about it? Or, what is an acting duo from a movie this year that you enjoyed seeing? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!