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Film / Devotion (2022)

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A 2022 American biographical war drama directed by JD Dillard that follows two fighter pilots (Glen Powell and Jonathan Majors) during their time in the Korean War.

In early 1950, as conflict looms with the Soviet Union, US Navy Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Powell) transfers from piloting AD Skyraider attack planes to Fighter Squadron 32 in Rhode Island. There, he's paired up with Ensign Jesse Brown (Majors), the first black man ever to become a US naval aviator. Brown is standoffish with him at first, but Hudner wins him over as the unit switches from F8F Bearcats to F4U-4 Corsairs and deploys to Europe to saber-rattle against the Warsaw Pact... only for the Reds to pull a Bait-and-Switch when war breaks out even further east in Korea.

The movie also stars Christina Jackson, Joe Jonas, Thomas Sadowski, Serinda Swan, Daren Kagasoff, Dean Denton, Joseph Cross, and Spencer Neville.

It was released on September 12, 2022 at the Toronto International Film Festival, moving to theaters on November 23.

Tropes used in Devotion include:

  • Airstrike Impossible: During the Yalu River mission, the Navy fliers are ordered not to return fire against the north bank, lest attacking Chinese soil bring the Soviet Union into the war. Ack-ack from the north bank forces the AD Skyraiders to break off before they can bomb the second bridge, so Jesse defies Tom's orders and makes a zero-altitude attack run through the Chinese flak to blow the bridge himself with his last pair of rockets.
  • Bar Brawl: A racist Marine officer assigned to USS Leyte takes a dislike to Brown early on, which is compounded when Brown inadvertently embarrasses him in front of Elizabeth Taylor at a casino in Cannes. After Hudner and Brown leave to find a bar that will serve the latter, the Marines show up and immediately pick a fight.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The 1st Marine Division—including some of the jarheads that Jesse and Tom clashed with earlier in the film—are pinned down by the People's Liberation Army at the Chosin Reservoir and one of them prays for "angels". Not a moment later, they hear the drone of VF-32's engines, and the Corsairs swoop out of the sky and unload rockets and machine guns on the Chinese army, breaking the back of the attack.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: It's 1950, so the fact that Jesse is black presents him significant problems. He recalls being made to take his swimming test at the Academy ten times, with the instructors deliberately sabotaging him on later attempts to keep him from passing. At one point, they put weights in his flight suit and might've even tried to drown him. He also implies that he's experienced severe racism on his journey to becoming a naval aviator.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos.
  • Great Offscreen War: World War II, which most of the cast trained for but weren't able to serve in: Tom applied to the Naval Academy after Pearl Harbor and was a month away from graduation when Japan surrendered.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Ensign Jesse Brown, first African-American naval aviator. Sort of: technically Oscar Holmes was the first, having gotten in during WWII due to a bureaucratic mistake, but he never saw combat, and Brown was the first black man to pass US Navy flight officer training (Holmes was given a bye because he had flight experience as a civilian).
    • Lt. Tom Hudner, officer and naval aviator.
    • Elizabeth Taylor, American actress that Brown and Hudner run into.
    • Harry S. Truman, President of the United States.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Widowmaker" and "Ensign Eliminator" for the F4U Corsair, which it earned honestly in real life due to being unusually difficult to land for inexperienced pilots.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Between Tom, Jesse, and a North Korean Air Force MiG-15 that buzzes the strike group hitting the Yalu River bridges. Tom and Jesse break off to go after it, only for the MiG to hide in the clouds and get behind them, forcing Jesse to lead it on a Canyon Chase so that Tom can get in front and shoot it down.
  • One-Word Title: Devotion.
  • N-Word Privileges: Despite the time period, the black Jesse is the only character to use the N-word in the film, albeit repeating insults he had received from white men.
  • Period Piece: Takes place during the early days of the Korean War.
  • Rock Beats Laser:
    • VF-32's first mission once they reach Korea is to suppress air defenses so that an AD Skyraider squadron can take out two bridges across the Yalu River and slow the PLA's advance. The all-prop plane strike group is jumped by a next-generation MiG-15 jet fighter, which Jesse and Tom break off to go after. Jesse leads the MiG on a merry Canyon Chase while Tom sneaks around the outside and lets Jesse lead it into his guns.
    • Near the end of the film, Jesse's Corsair is taken out by a hit to his engine from a random potshot from a Chinese sniper, which causes the fatal oil leak.
  • Shown Their Work: Despite its iconic status, the F4U Corsair really was that infamously difficult to land for exactly the reasons depicted in the film: the same overpowered engine that made it one of the fastest naval prop fighters ever built, also made it prone to flipping if you gunned the engine too hard. Coupled with the cockpit being positioned unusually far back and giving it a big blind spot below the nose—dictated by the placement of the main fuel tank in front of the cockpit—it was extremely tricky to land. Jesse has to touch-and-go on his first try at the carrier landing test, and Mohring spins out and fatally crashes in the water.
  • The Teetotaler: Jesse doesn't drink alcohol for the entire runtime of the film, not even when his squadron-mates are toasting the late Ensign Mohring. Lampshaded when his wife Daisy offers Tom a beer at their house: on Tom's question, she clarifies that Jesse doesn't drink, but she does.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailer heavily plays up the air combat scenes and makes it seem much more like a standard gung-ho war movie. The film is actually a rather quiet character drama for the most part, and they don't even go to Korea until over halfway through.
  • You Are in Command Now: A non-lethal example: at the start of the Yalu River mission, Commander Cevoli's landing gear refuses to retract after takeoff, so he hands command of the Corsair wing over to Tom and returns to the carrier for the duration.

Alternative Title(s): Devotion